Cuba has 7,793 fixed-broadband Internet subscriptions, according to the ITU’s recently released index, “ICT Facts and Figures 2015.” That’s an abysmally low number; the Dominican Republic, with a population just below Cuba’s, has nearly 600,000 fixed broadband Internet subscriptions. Meanwhile, a larger country like Colombia has over 5 million fixed broadband subscriptions.
Behind the Data
As noted in Cuba’s Readiness for ICT Transformation, Cuba’s underperformance in this domain is all the more unusual because the country has a decent fixed line telephone network. Given the number fixed telephone lines on the island, Cuba should have roughly 450,000 more broadband subscriptions. Clearly the Cuban government, and the state telecom company ETECSA, has a way to go.
However, in terms of annual growth, the most recent ITU figures show a 45.4% increase over the previous year, which is a step in the right direction. Granted, it’s easy to notch large percentage gains when you start from a low point, but other developments point toward the recent uptick being the start of a trend.
What It Means
After more than a decade of providing no real information on the state of the country’s Internet infrastructure, in 2015 ETECSA released a National Broadband Plan, and on several occasions this year detailed information on the country’s ICT modernization plans have leaked out of ETECSA.
And essentially all of Cuba’s global Internet traffic is now transmitted through an undersea fiber optic cable—not routed through expensive and slow satellites—a switch that’s just taken place over the past few months, according to an analysis conducted by Doug Madory at Dyn Research.
At the same time, ETECSA has cut per hour price of accessing the global Internet at its “navigation rooms,” while also opening 35 free public Wi-fi hotspots.
In light of these changes, the increase in fixed broadband subscriptions is not a blip. Havana is finally getting serious about modernizing the island’s IT infrastructure.
The increase in fixed broadband Internet subscriptions may even attest to a rollout atop the existing telephone network, via XDSL or ADSL, which could see the number of fixed broadband subscriptions continue to increase in large percentages year-to-year—though the change will probably not be so quick that Havana risks losing control of the modernization process.