3G Has Arrived In Havana
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 26 April 2017 — The third
generation (3G) of voice and data transmission via mobile phones reached
all municipalities in Havana on Monday after it was launched earlier
this month in several areas of Matanzas, Villa Clara, Ciego de Avila,
Pinar del Río, Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey, according to the
Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA).
Prepaid users in the capital are now experiencing a substantial
improvement in Nauta’s e-mail service on their mobile phone, a relief
after three years since the creation of this product, which has been a
frequent target of criticism and complaints about its instability and
“I opened my mailbox and: abracadabra! I got all the messages at
once,” a young high school student tells 14ymedio in amazement while
standing in line on Tuesday to buy recharge cards at the ETECSA office
on the lower level of the Focsa building.
The days are long gone when only resident foreigners and tourists could
contract for mobile phone service in Cuba. One of the first measures
implemented by Raul Castro when he assumed the presidency in 2008 was to
allow nationals to contract for prepaid cellphone service.
Since then, more than four million customers of the state monopoly have
been looking forward to connecting to the internet through their
mobiles. Enabling 3G coverage has set off speculation about the imminent
arrival of that service to cellphones.
“They can’t wait any longer, because having the internet on your
cellphone is normal for most people in the world, but here it seems like
a dream,” complains Rodobaldo, an industrial engineer, 42, who travels
frequently to Panama. “As soon as I get there and install my Panamanian
SIM card I can surf and receive emails, but when I return to Cuba my
phone doesn’t have that capability.”
In Latin America, 3G has given way to 4G, which has been available for
years. Uruguay has this network in 84% of its territory, Bolivia in 67%,
Peru in 61% and Mexico in 60%, according to data from the International
Telecommunication Union (ITU). However, in Cuba having this
functionality on the mobile network still seems like a science fiction
Rodobaldo is hopeful that ETECSA will soon offer packages to connect to
the web from cell phones. Recently there was the first pilot project to
bring internet to some 700 families (of the 2,000 initially planned)
through in-home ADSL in Old Havana, but the users complain about the
high prices: according to the bandwidth chosen it cost between 30 and 70
pesos for 30 hours.
“Every day there are more foreign companies offering packages so that
tourists who come to the island can surf the internet from their own
cellphone accounts,” an official of the state company, who preferred to
remain anonymous,told this newspaper. “We have roaming agreements in
more than 150 countries,” he says.
Following the beginning of the diplomatic thaw between Washington and
Havana, announced on 17 December 2014, Barack Obama’s administration
authorized US telecommunications companies to operate in Cuba.
Verizon took the first step and offered services to its users visiting
the Island, and was later joined by Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T. However,
the prices of browsing from one of these phones during a stay in Cuba
are still very high, averaging about $2.05 per megabyte.
Until the implementation of 3G, roaming services sent and received
emails via Nauta and text messages using the General Packet Radio
Service (GPRS) connection, an enriched Global System for Mobile (GMS)
Now, to be able to take advantage of 3G in Cuba, “the customer must have
3G coverage on their cellphone with the WCDMA standard on the 900 MHz
frequency, which is the international standard in several European and
Latin American countries,” Luis Manuel Díaz, ETECSA’s Director of
Institutional Communications told the official press.
Phones that technically do not have the ability to access the new
network will continue to use the 2G that “coexists without difficulty,”
the company’s representative told the official newspaper Granma.
A marketing specialist for the state monopoly, Óscar López Díaz, goes
further and in addition to highlighting the improvement in the
connection speed for the use of the Nauta mail brought by 3G service, he
believes that its arrival will enable ” future access to other services
such as the Internet on phones.”
Source: 3G Has Arrived In Havana – Translating Cuba –