HAVANA – ETECSA, Cuba’s state telecommunications company, is predicting that the number of wireless subscribers on the island will exceed 1 million by the end of this year.
Cuba has invested some $150 million since 2003 to develop the island’s cellular phone industry, ETECSA’s vice president of mobile services, Maximo Lafuente, told the official Prensa Latina news agency.
“This year, ETECSA will make the necessary investments to end 2010 with 1 million subscribers,” the executive said, adding that the projection for 2015 is that the number of wireless subscribers will climb to 2.4 million.
Lafuente said that beginning June 1 cell phone users will enjoy significant cost savings on calls made between 11:00 p.m. and 6:59 a.m. A new “caller pays” system will also go into effect on that date, although cell phone users also will have the option of a collect-call service.
The executive also said that rates for national and international calls will fall by between 42 percent and 75 percent depending on the destination.
He also added that activation costs for cell phones have fallen from an original price tag of $120 to a current cost of $43.
Of the communist-ruled island’s 169 municipalities, 23 are still without mobile phone coverage, in some cases because they are located in mountainous or swampy areas.
Gen. Raul Castro’s government in 2008 allowed cell phone service for ordinary Cubans, a luxury previously reserved for foreigners, companies and state agencies.
The lifting of that restriction was one of the first measures he adopted after formally succeeding ailing older brother Fidel in February 2008, along with others allowing the unrestricted sale of computers, DVD players and other consumer goods.
Since then, ETECSA has gradually reduced the cost of activating cell phone lines and the use of mobile phones among ordinary Cubans has visibly increased. EFE