US telecom giant AT&T has begun offering roaming wireless services for its customers in Cuba after wrapping up an agreement for network interconnection with the island’s state-run telecom firm ETECSA.
The carrier says its customers can now talk, text, and use data while visiting the communist island. Some US papers have described the move as AT&T’s second major step on its expansion in Latin America.
Most US operators offer roaming wireless service in Cuba, but AT&T’s announcement is watched far more closely and eagerly, because the carrier is growing into a major player in the Latin American region.
Another factor fueling the speculation is that the United States allows its carriers to establish the necessary infrastructure in Cuba to offer various telecom services, including wireless internet.
With more than 11 million people and rickety infrastructure, Cuba offers a fresh new market for US carriers. They can even export telecom equipment and products to Cuba. No doubt that Cuba’s geographical proximity to the US is a major positive in terms of operational costs.
The roaming service is still expensive in Cuba. AT&T, for example, charges $3 per minute on the phone, $0.50 per SMS text, $1.30 per MMS text, and $2.05 per MB of data.
In Mexico, on the other hand, AT&T has staked billions of dollars on making inroads into Carlos Slim’s stronghold. Thanks to its acquisition of DirecTV, the carrier now owns satellite operations in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
According to Dallas Business Journal, AT&T also owns 93% of Sky Brasil and 41% of Sky Mexico.