Reports in the US media this week suggest that President Obama’s decision to ease long-standing economic restrictions against Cuba could lead to US operators entering the country’s underdeveloped mobile market. According to a Wireless Week report, the new policy means that US telcos will be able to establish satellite and fiber-optic links to Cuba and enter into roaming agreements with Cuban service providers. “[With] more than 11 million inhabitants, very few of whom have a cellular phone, Cuba would almost certainly be viewed as a very attractive new market for carriers,” said Chris King, a senior analyst with Stifel Nicolaus Telecom Equity Research. As well as US operators such as Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, he said that Latin American operators such as America Movil, Digicel and Millicom could also be interested.
However, none of the major US mobile operators have yet to comment on their plans in Cuba. “We have to look at the government’s proposal, but we’re not commenting at this time,” AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel told Computerworld. Similarly, Sprint Nextel said that “there are too many moving pieces” for the operator to comment on its plans at this stage. According to Wireless Week, it is unclear if Cuba’s communist regime will allow US companies access to the country’s telecoms market, noting also that the country only officially lifted its ban on private mobile phone ownership last year. According to Wireless Intelligence, Cuba had 430,000 mobile connections at the end of 2008 via the country’s sole operator, Cubacel.