Cuba has started providing internet on the mobile phones of select users as part of the strategy to expand the coverage of mobile data service nationwide by year-end.
The Communist-run government started offering mobile Internet to journalists at state-run news outlets this year. Cuba President Miguel Diaz-Canel has said mobile Internet should boost the economy and help Cubans defend their revolution.
Analysts said broader web access will also ultimately weaken the government’s control of what information reaches people in the one-party island state that has a monopoly on the media, Reuters reported.
Certain customers, including companies and embassies, have also been able to buy mobile data plans since December, according to the website of Cuban telecoms monopoly ETECSA, which has not broadly publicized the move.
ETECSA has said it will expand mobile internet to all its 5 million mobile phone customers, nearly half of Cuba’s population, by the end of this year.
ETECSA offered internet to the public at tourist hotels in Cuba till 2013. But the government has since then made increasing connectivity a priority, introducing cyber-cafes and outdoor Wi-Fi hotspots and slowly starting to hook up homes to the web.
Last month, ETECSA launched a free Cuba-only messaging application, Todus, while Cuba’s own intranet with a handful of government-approved sites and email is cheaper to access than the wider internet.
The Cuban government said — in a 2015 document about its internet strategy that leaked — it aimed to connect at least half of homes by 2020 and 60 percent of phones.
ETECSA President Mayra Arevich told state-run media in December it had connected just 11,000 homes last year.
Most mobile phone owners have smartphones, though Cuba is now installing 3G technology, even as most of Latin America has moved onto 4G, with 5G in its final testing phase.
Hotspots in Cuba currently charge $1 an hour, compared with an average state monthly wage of $30. ETECSA is charging companies and embassies $45 a month for four gigabytes.
Image source: Reuters