New submarine cable the key to international internet connectivity in Cuba

Cuba still has the lowest mobile phone and internet penetration rates in the region, and is also among the lowest for fixed-line teledensity. Fixed-line and mobile services remain a monopoly of the government-controlled Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (Etecsa Cubacel).

There remains substantial state control over the right to own and use certain communications services, including the right to access the internet. Whilst the Obama administration has recently relaxed some of the embargo rules pertaining to telecom services, differences between US and Cuban pricing rules effectively preclude US operators from operating in Cuba. Although Raul Castro has made it clear that he will be reducing the size of Cuban state expenditure in favour of private participation in the economy, the genuine liberalisation of Cuba’s telecom sector is expected to be hampered slowly over the coming years. This has been keenly witnessed in the slow development of the submarine cable between Venezuela and Cuba, which has landed at the Venezuelan end at least but which is yet to be switched on for Cuban traffic.

Market highlights:

  • Since 2009 US telcos have been able to establish themselves in Cuba though reticence on the part of Cuban authorities has made co-operation difficult.
  • The incumbent Etecsa, now merged with its mobile subsidiary Cubacel, has worked with the government to improve teledensity in poorly served areas of the capital, though services remain limited.
  • The ALBA-1 submarine fibre-optic cable between Cuba and Venezuela has the potential to provide 640Gb/s bandwidth but delays mean that years after the project started no traffic is yet carried.
  • Mobile subscriber growth of around 30% in 2011 has largely been the result the government’s 2008 decision to allow private ownership of cell phones, as also a response to the poor fixed-line infrastructure. Mobile penetration nevertheless remains among the lowest in Latin America.
  • Public internet access is also limited, with most dial-up the only realistic access for citizens. The high cost of access, as also the limitations of dial-up connectivity, mean that the potential of the WWW, as recognised in most other countries, remains impossible in Cuba.

BuddeComm’s Cuba – Telecoms, Mobile, and Broadband report profiles the fixed-line, mobile and internet markets in the Caribbean’s largest country. It includes state statistical market data for 2011 as well as developments to November 2012.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Cuba – Telecoms Mobile and Broadband – Analyses and Statistics



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