14ymedio, Havana, 9 October 2019 — The progress of 4G in Cuba has been slow and this week has taken a new step. The Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa) announced through its Twitter account that as of this Wednesday prepaid cell phone customers “may request authorization for access to the 4G / LTE network.”
Until now, customers of the state monopoly had to wait to be selected by the company to receive a text message (SMS) that informed them of the possibility of using the 4G network. With the new announcement, the user can request that service as long as they meet the technical requirements to navigate at higher data rates.
The customer only has to send a message to the service number 2266 with the acronym LTE. The SMS is sent at no cost to the user, who will receive a confirmation if their mobile phone meets the technical conditions for the use of the 4G.
Among the requirements that must be met is to have a telephone device that works on the frequency of 1,800 MHz, band 3, and that has a USIM card. However, 4G coverage is not yet available throughout the Island, so meeting these technology requirements may not be enough.
Just this week, the official press reported that in Ciego de Ávila province the first 13 radio bases had been installed in the provincial capital for the use of 4G technology, also known as fourth generation. Other provinces are still waiting for this technology to begin to expand.
The USIM or Universal Subscriber Identification Module is a chip for mobile telephony that allows connection to the 4G network, supports the making of video calls, has the capacity to store a greater number of contacts, in addition to providing security and protection to the Internet traffic.
This card is for sale at the Etecsa offices for 3 CUC, but customers complain that the stock of USIM cards are frequently sold out in a good part of these commercial points or that the lines to acquire them are long and it may take hours to be helped.
This Wednesday’s announcement has been well received by those who had been waiting for months to be included in the 4G tests that were carried out in various parts of the Island, but it is also generating doubts and questions.
Several Internet users complained on Twitter that their mobile models, especially the Xiaomi and Samsung brands, despite complying with all technical requirements, were not accepted for the 4G service. “I sent the message from my cell phone, a Xiaomi Redmi 7A and I received a negative response although my cell phone supports the frequency of 1,800 MHz,” one user lamented.
Others, such as Jean Carlos Romero, applaud the measure that “the acquisition of the right to surf faster is now something more transparent and not handled with the same secrecy as before.”
The 4G network was activated in March this year, at a time of growing discomfort among thetelecommunications company’s customers due to the poor quality of web browsing from cell phones. The 3G service began on December 6 and, since then, complaints about the low speed and poor quality of the connection have been frequent.
The 4G network was initially being tested and until this October only users who generated traffic greater than 1.5 GB could connect at the same rates or packages valid for mobile data through 3G.
This requirement could only be met by users with higher incomes, since the navigation service costs 0.10 CUC (roughly 10¢ USD) per megabyte, although most users choose the option of purchasing one of the four data packages available, ranging from 600 megabyte for 7 CUC up to 4 gigabytes for 30 CUC (roughly $30 USD), which is the equivalent of the monthly salary of a professional.
Earlier this year, Etecsa had 5.4 million active lines and the average monthly growth was 50,000 new lines, according to official data. Forty percent of mobile phone users “generate data traffic of some kind,” either through the use of Nauta mail, MMS or web browsing.
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