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Cuba - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

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Last updated: 22 Apr 2020 Update History

Report Pages: 60

Cuba widens reach of 3G services

Cuba’s telecom sector remains a peculiarity, with state control having stymied rather than promoted the development of all sectors. The country has the lowest mobile phone and internet penetration rates in the region, while fixed-line teledensity is also very low. Fixed-line and mobile services remain a monopoly of the government-controlled Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETESCA Cubacel).

Although there are strict state restrictions over the right to own and use certain communications services, including the right to access the internet, a thawing of relations between the US and Cuba has encouraged the government to improve access to services. Since 2015 Wi-Fi hotspots have been put in a number of places, and though connectivity is slow and in many public areas a thriving black market has emerged in which connections are duplicated using software or nano routers, the cost of access was reduced in 2018.

Access to sites is also tightly controlled and censored. A DSL service was launched in March 2017 in areas of Havana and has since been expanded though costs have been set too high for most Cubans able to access the service. Similarly, 3G services have been launched and were available to about two-thirds of the population by the end of 2018. However, costs are high and locals accept that the technology is dated. Although ETESCA has announced plans to trial LTE there is as yet no progress evident.

BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020 is having a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.

On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.

Although it is challenging to predict and interpret the long-term impacts of the crisis as it develops, these have been acknowledged in the industry forecasts contained in this report.

The report also covers the responses of the telecom operators as well as government agencies and regulators as they react to the crisis to ensure that citizens can continue to make optimum use of telecom services. This can be reflected in subsidy schemes and the promotion of tele-health and tele-education, among other solutions.

Key developments:

  • ETECSA starts satellite internet service with 03b Networks;
  • US government completes second subsea cable, linking Puerto Rico with Guantanamo Bay Naval Base;
  • SMS service with the US allowed;
  • ETECSA widens 3G service reach;
  • Wi-Fi access charges reduced to CUS1 per hour;
  • Report update includes ITU data for 2017, recent market developments.
  • Assessment of the global impact of COVID-19 on the telecoms sector.

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