What for Cuba’s Phone Company Was a Year of Achievements, for Cubans Was an Ordeal

In Havana only 22 people out of every 100 inhabitants have landlines. (Havana Tribune)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 January 2024 — The Cuban state Telecommunications company (Etecsa) celebrated this Wednesday, among other “achievements,” having reached some 39,000 families in Havana in 2023 with Nauta Hogar, one of services worst valued by its clients. At the bottom of the laudatory article, however, commentators were quick to complain about the company’s poor service. Nauta Hogar, a connection through ADSL technology, was initially announced as an option for home and professional navigation with high speeds. However, over the years and despite the installation of fiber optic cables in numerous neighborhoods of Havana, it has remained a privilege that is offered only to a few, among them officials, managers and personnel of state entities who can justify the need to access the web from home.

According to reports, in the capital only 22 people per 100 inhabitants have landline, a service that in much of the world has gone into the background, but on the Island, due to high prices and poor quality of service mobile and internet, continues to be an important communication channel. “The growth plan proposed for this indicator was not fulfilled due to the lack of resources for the operation,” the Havana subsidiary justified.

  “Many of these lines end their life cycle and are not reactivated by users within the established time”

There was also a decrease in the number of active mobile lines, something that the publication explained by saying that “many of these lines reach the end of their life cycle and are not reactivated by users within the established time.”

What the company does not clarify is the reason for this drop, which is partly a consequence of the mass exodus. During 2023, more than half a million Cubans left the Island, which translates into fewer recharges from abroad and more people inheriting or purchasing their lines in the informal market without having to purchase one at official points of sale. Hence, customers not only do not increase, but are becoming fewer and fewer.

However, the service most questioned by Internet users was internet and mobile data. According to Etecsa statistics, about 1.9 million Havana residents have cell phone service, and 70% of them access the Internet with it, but very few are satisfied with the service.

“I am [a] client quite affected by the Internet. I navigated quite well on 3G, the situation is 4G, which is terrible and it is not only in the home, but also on the street,” said a resident in La Víbora who claims that when he calls the customer service number the operator insists that it is a problem in the area in which he resides. “If the company does not have the infrastructure to provide a service with 4G quality, please do not sell more packages combined with 4G. It is abusive to have so many gigabytes, there are already 80 accumulated, and be barely be able to use them,” summarized the Internet user.

Another user recalled the Arimao submarine cable that the company installed, in collaboration with the French company Orange, between the province of Cienfuegos and the island of Martinique in 2022. According to a company statement, when this line went into operation the internet service on the Island improved. “It is assumed that this investment was made among other things to improve connectivity, but there really has not been any appreciable improvement,” complained the Internet user, who claimed to have not heard any other news about the investment since then.

Although Etecsa did not reveal the date on which the work would be completed, it did explain that “the physical structure” of the cable would be ready by 2023. The reality, however, has been different, and Cuba remains connected only to ALBA-1, the Venezuelan cable that has supplied internet since 2012, while for Cubans making a call, sharing photos and accessing their social networks has become an ordeal.


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