Cubans Get Public Cell Phones

Following a decision made by President Raul Castro, Cuba announced this morning that its residents would now be able to own their own cell phones, provided by Cuban telecom provider ETESCA. Reuters reports that some Cubans have previously had access to cell phones, but only at work or if foreigners created contracts in their own name for Cuban residents. According to AP, however, there’s a bit of a catch. The Cuban public will have to sign up for prepaid contracts through ETECSA using the Cuban Convertible Peso currency instead of the Cuban peso with which most residents are paid. The Cuban Convertible Peso is worth 24 times more than the standard peso. Since it has a monopoly on the market, ETECSA will sell its service in Convertible Pesos so that only the wealthy will be able to afford cell phones and, in turn, allow the telecommunications provider to build better networks. At this time, ETECSA likely doesn’t have the capability to support a large inflow of cell phone users, so once the networks are improved, the price can drop to accommodate more of the general public. AP also reported that “there were no lines of would-be customers mobbing ETECSA outlets as they opened for business.” Perhaps Cubans are waiting on the iPhone.

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