Cuba-Cell Phones: Good Deal but…

Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES, Jan 11 — Several times a year the Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA) makes tempting offers to increase their number of cellphone subscribers.

Typically, this is at the end of the year, when they offer a phone card balance of 30 CUCs (about $33 USD) to whoever buys a line for that same amount.

When these offers are made, Cubans who want to (or who are able to) save up money for times like this can be seen in huge lines seeking to seize upon the opportunity.

This means of communication is well out of the reach of a large part of the population since it involves investing some 100 CUCs between the telephone itself, the appliance line and the initial balance (without counting the line maintenance, which costs a monthly minimum of 5 CUCs, which is 125 pesos or $5 USD.

A Venezuelan friend told me that in her country you can have the line and not put in money as long as you want. I don’t know if it works the same in other countries, but here, after you have paid your 30 CUCs, if you don’t pay 5 CUCs per month, you lose your line.

If Cuba were a country where throngs of people had lines and cellphones, it might be understandable, but it’s not like that here.

Moreover, for those who read this diary entry, the costs may appear cheap, but they’re not at all in relation to what the average Cuban earns.

As a result, of those people who have and use mobile lines, a miniscule number of them speak freely or for extended periods on their phones. Most people use them as little more than pagers, or to locate someone they’re looking for.

Only those few who make a lot of money or receive it from abroad, or senior military officers who use them at no cost, or hustlers, etc. can speak naturally using a cell phone.

In my case, I recently bought a phone, but I don’t have a line. I only take advantage of the versatility of the device — for taking pictures and things — because I can’t afford a camera, an iPod or a computer.


2 thoughts on “Cuba-Cell Phones: Good Deal but…

  • Osmel Almaguer, here in the US there is a wide variety of plans and costs. Keep in mind, just as in Cuba, the situation is evolving. A few years ago, while we were ahead of Cuba and many smaller countries, “mobile” phones were very expensive and mostly businesses or wealthy people. Then as the numbers increased and we started getting cheaper phones from Japan, etc., the prices gradually came down. But lots of people would get caught in some promotion and find their monthly bill was hundreds of dollars.

    Now since cell phones are widely used, there are ways to get a cheap phone and keep the cost down where even a poorly paid worker can afford one if they don’t use it too much. But most people experiment with different companies and plans, and again those who don’t budget can get caught with bills they can’t pay.

    Since the companies are making so much money, they have been forced to provide a few services for low or subsidized costs for people on disability. Just as a home bound person with very low income used to be able to get a land line for local calls only at a minimum cost, now some get a free cell phone with a few minutes. Not easy, but helps the seriously disabled poor.

    I do hope that things get better and easier for you in Cuba.

  • Hi Osmel,

    In Canada there are different plans: you can “pay as you go” or you can also use up your allowance (data (Internet, text) and phone) – or exceed it, and wait for a monthly bill. Usually, we pay for the phone up-front and sign up for a 36-month contract with a set monthly rate, for example $60 a month for data and phone.

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