Cuba offers 3G mobile internet access


BBC reports that Cuba’s population will have access to internet via a 3G mobile network starting later this week. The new 3G service will be rolled out over a three-day period. BBC’s Will Grant writes that Cubans have long wanted to catch up with the rest of the world when it comes to internet access and that it seems like President Miguel Díaz-Canel (who has an active Twitter account) is making it happen. Grant reports:

Telecom provider Etecsa said citizens would be able to start subscribing to the service from Thursday.

Until now, locals have mostly relied on wi-fi hotspots and internet cafes and the 3G service has been restricted to state-employed journalists and foreign businesses among others. This will change – but many will still be unable to afford the new contracts. Etecsa’s packages range from a month’s use of 600MB of data for 7CUC ($7; £5.50) to 4GB for 30CUC. Users get a bonus 300MB use of local .cu domain websites. But the average state wage for the island’s 11.2 million residents is the equivalent of about $30 per month.

The launch marks a further relaxation of the government’s restrictions on online activity. Until five years ago, access was largely limited to tourist hotels and state-operated clubs. But in 2013, the authorities began opening internet cafes. In 2014, they began allowing mobile phone owners access to the state’s Nauta email service at a charge of 1CUC per megabyte – the price has since fallen to the same charge for 50MB. In 2015, the first wi-fi hotspot opened at a cultural centre. Hundreds of other public spaces then followed. And then in 2017, Etecsa began offering a limited number of home connections.

Access to the new 3G service will be rolled out over a three-day period in order to reduce the risk of it being overwhelmed with demand. The order in which existing subscribers will be invited to join will be determined by the first two digits of their mobile phone number.

However, Etecsa has not ruled out the possibility of glitches. “Incidents could be experienced in certain areas,” it has warned. “If customers experience any problems, they should inform the company.”

Nearly half of Cuba’s population own a mobile phone although not all are compatible with the radio frequency the service will use. [. . .]

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