You are traveling to St. John and are probably wondering
Will my phone work on St. John?
How is the phone reception on St. John and will my AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon phone work there? What will it cost to use text, voice or data services? Will any roaming charges apply? Here is the current status, this is always subject to change, please post comments below.
Cell Phone Coverage on St. John, USVI
AT&T Service on St. John (the best in our opinion)
AT&T has pretty good coverage and the USVI are included in domestic rates, so you can use your voice and data phone just like home. The data network is pretty fast and AT&T also works well in the East End. One area that is pretty bad for AT&T is around the Westin and the South Shore, but we hear they plan to build a new tower. You can check the AT&T Coverage Map here. Sometimes data reception is better than voice, so you can still send imessages or Facebook Messages when voice reception is bad.
UPDATE: AT&T has just put up a new tower on St. John which significantly improves the reception in the Bethany/Pastory area and around the Westin.
Choice is the local mobile provider and they have just upgraded their system to 4G LTE (starting May 4th) and it is pretty good and fast. To use choice you need to buy or rent one of their phones, they are specifically modified and do not use SIM cards. LTE is an abbreviation for Long-Term Evolution, commonly marketed as 4G LTE, a standard for high-speed wireless data. LTE increases the capacity and speed giving you faster and more reliable Internet. Choice Wireless has invested in bringing this technology to the US Virgin Islands with more towers and new equipment.
Sprint Service on St. John
You can also use Sprint on St. John without roaming charges, but in our experience the reception is worse that with AT&T. A look at the Sprint coverage map confirms this. While St. Thomas Service looks great, St. John only seems to be covered in the West.
Verizon Service on St. John
Verizon has no data coverage on St. John, in theory, texting works inside your plan like in the US, but phone calls are 1.99$ per minute. Often times, you will pick up BVI cell signal and then even the texts cost. Beware of using your state-side Verizon phone on St. John, you might rack up horrendous roaming charges, unless you sign up for a travel plan.
My friends who recently visited St. John could not get any Verizon reception at all on St. John. If you are with Verizon, you might want to consider getting an AT&T go phone prepaid SIM card for your time on St. John (30-50$ per month). Some villas also provide rental mobile phones.
T-Mobile Service on St. John
T-Mobile has no own towers on St. John but are using “service partners”, supposedly sprint. We have been told T-Mobile coverage on St. John is quite spotty.
Pay as you go SIM cards for St. John
so reading this, you might be thinking to get an AT&T pay as you go card for your trip. It is recommended to do that state-side. There are no pay as you go cards which include data service available on St. John and the ones you buy at the airport vending machines for 30$ only work for voice, not data. A good pay as you go card that works on St. John, which I have been using myself is from H20 Wireless, they use the AT&T network. The rate of 50$ per month for voice and data (2GB) is reasonable and cheaper than any plans you can get on St. John.
Beware of roaming charges on St. John
What can happen, especially in the East part of the island is that your phone pics up a BVI tower signal.You will see “LIME” or “Digicell” instead of ATT. If you have roaming on, you night end up with horrific charges, so it is better to turn roaming off. Sometimes these charges can be reversed by calling your operator and explaining the situation.
Cell phones in the BVI
You can sometimes pick up US network in the British Virgin Islands, for example on Jost van Dyke or Tortola West End. If you plan cruising the BVI waters for a while, consider signing up with Digicel, they have great coverage anywhere on the water and good pay as you go plans (if you can put up with the waiting in the road town store on Tortola). Once you have a card, you can top up online. In fact, many Sailing and Boating Business have 2 cell phones, one USVI and one BVI.