Nearshore Americas

Cuba Unveils Plans to Reach 90 Percent Broadband Penetration by 2020

By Narayan Ammachchi

The government of Cuba says it will expand broadband coverage to 90 percent of its population over the next five years. In an official paper published this week and obtained by Nearshore Americas, Cuban leaders also conceded that “regulatory barriers” were previously hindering Internet penetration on the island.

According to its own estimation, nearly a quarter of the country’s population has signed up for fixed telephony, while the mobile penetration rate still stands at 21%. Mobile subscription in Cuba reportedly surpassed 3 million last month, according to recent assessment by Nearshore Americas.

The news is clearly an encouraging indication for Cuba watchers, who have longed hoped for improved broadband to enable an assortment of digital commerce – including of course – Nearshore outsourcing.

The National Broadband Strategy, according to the government, will make way for the ‘safe’ computerization of Cuba. If everything goes according to the plan, by 2020 all Cubans will be able to sign up for Internet connections with a minimum download speed of 256KBps at a cost of 5 percent of their average monthly wage.

The paper calls for deploying Wi-Fi networks in all cities and provincial capitals across the country. Moreover, it emphasizes the desire to set up 3G and 4G/LTE networks in urban areas where there is population density.

The government has blamed limited bandwidth on weak infrastructure and ‘reduced capacity’ in base stations, recognizing that Internet can help it raise economic output and make its citizens more efficient in their workplace.

The paper calls for deploying Wi-Fi networks in all cities and provincial capitals across the country. Moreover, it emphasizes the desire to set up 3G and 4G/LTE networks in urban areas where there is a population density.

By 2018, it seems, the government will provide Internet access to all of its officials, including those in municipalities, national institutions and Communist party offices. But by 2020, just about everyone in the country will be able access high-speed Internet.

By early 2017, all universities and research centers in the country will have access to broadband.

“Over time, we have to increase the broadband speed from 50 MBps to 150 MBps, and enable companies to launch IPtv services,” says the report, urging the agencies to speed up deployment of fixed telephony infrastructure to meet the current need for broadband services in the country.

The government will soon issue a notification, permitting operators to offer bundled telecom services, combining voice and data services into a single plan. To sustain the growth, it will try adding more number of telecom and computing technology courses to the curricula, in addition to launching training programs to generate network engineers and ICT experts.

Although the Cuban government has long been talking of expanding public access to the Internet, it has continued to maintain restrictions for access at home. The paper makes no mention of allowing unrestricted access. Nor does it shed light on ETECSA’s plans to lay optical fiber across the island.

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To protect itself from cyber attacks, Cuba will put in place measures suggested by the International Telecommunications Union and unveil regulations for e-banking and e-commerce firms. Multiple signs indicate that the Cuban leadership takes Internet security very seriously, raising new questions about the level of involvement foreign telecommunications and software makers will have in this new scheme.

By 2020, the report says, 90 percent of people in remote rural areas will be able to access mobile telephony, but only 60 percent will be able to use mobile broadband.

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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