A New Crypto-currency is Born in Cuba, The "Etecso"

A Cubacel user on the mobile web network (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Havana/Miama, 26 May 2018 — The Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa) announced Thursday on Round Table program that beginning on June 5 people will be able to make three balance transfers daily between cell lines in the country and the charge for this service will be 20 cents CUC for this service instead of the current 30.

The measure triples the number of times that was permitted to send money from one phone to another and facilitates transactions for those who use the cell phone balance as a virtual currency.  It is not clear if this practice is legal or not, but it spreads every day.

“This is very good,” says Yosvany, a clandestine clothing and footwear seller on the Cienfuegos boulevard.  The man laments that the company does not allow an unlimited number of transfers, which according to him, would facilitate his business.

“It’s not the same having to carry CUCs and pesos to make a transfer from cell to cell,” he says.

The fear of a sudden and announced monetary unification, the poor quality of the bills as well as the presence of fake bills or simply the convenience of carrying out transactions without the need to count cash means that many Cubans prefer to use the phone balance transfers as their payment currency.

“For me this is marvelous.  My son reloads my phone every month from abroad and I pass some of the money to each of my relatives,” Angelina Verdecia, resident of Gloria street, told this newspaper by phone.  The woman, 68 years old, says that she does not understand much about technology, but her grandson uses the cell phone “even to pay the courier who runs errands for the bodega.”

Verdecia, however, laments that the transfers that she makes through her phone do not count for extending mobile lines’ annual contract.  In Cuba, one must add a balance before the year ends so that the line does not expire.  If the line owner does not, he loses the 40 dollars he paid for it.

The balance transfer is a service that Etesca implemented for prepaid customers (most cell phone users on the Island) in 2015, with a cost of 30 cents CUC for each transfer.  After this Friday the service will have a cost of 20 cents CUC (about five pesos in the CUP national currency).

In order to transfer balances from one cell to another one enters the access code *234# and follows the system instructions.  From once cent CUC up to 2,999 CUC can be sent.  “Within the company many of us are aware that there is a group of unscrupulous people who improperly use this service that Etecsa provides,” says an Etesca director from Santa Clara; he prefers not to reveal his identity because he is not authorized to speak with independent media.  The telephone company manager is referring to the use of the cell balance as money to pay for products or services or carry out commercial transfers.  “Those citizens should know that they could be committing a crime, and the company could cancel the contracts of those phone line owners who are involved,” he added.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel


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