14ymedio, Havana, 5 March 2019 — The directors of the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa) have decided, after several weeks, to offer an explanation for the notable loss in the quality of the 3G connection that has led to a lot criticism from its users. Kelvin Castro, director of media projects for the monopoly, acknowledged on Monday on the television news that the demand has exceeded the forecasts and he asked customers for patience.
The official admitted that the company “prepared for two years for this service, but the increased use exceeded the established strategy… The number of users who connect at the same time exceeds the capacity of the installed network,” he acknowledged.
“You can only use it late at night,” protests Geovanny, a Havana resident who, despite living in a very central area, can not get on the internet from his cell phone during the day. “When you do connect, it constantly hangs up,” he describes.
Eliécer Samada, head of the Etecsa wireless group, also appeared on the news program to explain that “optimization is being worked on and the results will be seen in the coming days.” The manager could not offer an expected date for the 4G service but he insisted that work is being done to get it going and increase the quality.
“The strategy is to increase capacity, we are installing radio bases quickly and with a more focused coverage where there is little coverage now,” Samada said.
Customers doubt the efficiency in expense management, since, despite the high prices, the infrastructure does not deliver what was expected. “How do you use all the money that you collect in the refill recharges [that family and friends provide] from abroad? Calls and web browsing are expensive,” complained a customer through a website.
The price of the connection is 0.10 CUC per megabit, although customers most frequently buy one of the four data packages, ranging from 600 megabits for 7 CUC to 4 gigabits for 30 CUC; this latter plan costs the equivalent of the entire monthly salary of a professional.
Other voices demand that Etecsa publish its accounts or that the Government allow other companies to enter the market.
Since last December 6, when web browsing service was enabled from mobile phones, the speed and stability of the connection has deteriorated. In the last four weeks, the malfunctioning of 3G data service on cell phones has become evident and has also affected calling and text message services.
At the end of January, Etecsa had 5.4 million active lines and the average monthly growth is 50,000 new customers, according to official data. 40% of those clients “generate data traffic of some kind” either by ’Nauta’ email, MMS or web browsing. 35% connect to the internet from their terminals.
Samada believes that the company is now at 160% of the expected capacity. Compared to the more than 1.7 million customers who surf from mobile phones, only 70,400 Cubans are connected from their homes through a landline, the so-called ’Nauta Hogar’ service.
Until the appearance of mobile data, 60% of the 5.9 million Cuban Internet users accessed the network from their schools and workplaces.
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