Cuba quietly opens up mobile internet – for just nine hours
Cuba’s telecoms monopoly has been trying out mobile internet – for just a few hours – but it won’t say when the full commercial service will be launched.
Etecsa, the Cuban state-owned telecoms company, did not announce its internet trial, but news that it had opened up access spread by word of mouth around the country.
“I will not believe it,” said dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez on Twitter. “I am sending this message from my mobile, during the first internet surfing test of the state monopoly Etecsa in the prepaid cellular service.”
Until now internet access in Cuba has been limited to a few internet cafés and public hotspots, for which the state sold internet access cards.
Etecsa said after the trial – which lasted around nine hours – was over that it was “part of the actions of preparation for the beginning of internet service through mobiles”. The tests were “to verify the operation of all the elements” of the future service.
It was “a one-off test” for prepaid customers, “who have been able to make free internet connections”. Etecsa said: “This and other tests allow [the company] to evaluate available capacity and different user experiences.” The tests will help it make “some adjustments” if necessary, it added. “If necessary, other tests will be carried out in the following days.”
Etecsa said: “The start date of the service, as well as its rates and other details of interest, will be communicated through the media and official channels of the company.”
Sánchez told the New York Times in an interview: “The [mobile] connection was very slow, with a lot of problems for stretches of time. At one point the connection was dropped, but even so, it felt like a tiny window had been opened.”
She said that, though chat services were available, Facebook was hard to connect with – ironically, given that Etecsa has its own Facebook page.
There are already four million smartphones in Cuba – a country with a population of 11.5 million – so there is a ready market waiting for Etecsa to exploit.