DailyTech previously reported on Cuba, at long last, lifting
its ban on consumer cell phones. The new allowance, enacted by Cuba’s
new president, Raul Castro, pleased many, but some feared the phones would be
too expensive to be popular.
However, it appears a healthy
cell phone market has indeed risen in Cuba. Alejandro was among
the hundreds of Cubans in line at one of the state-run cell phone stores in
Havana's colonial district. A self-employed Cuban, Alejandro had long
resorted to illegally using a cell phone registered in the name of a
foreigner. Now he can happily use his new phone legally. He
states, "It is an advance, like other things that are
happening in Cuba now."
Mayerlin, a mother of two who was also in the line commented,
"Before we had to get the line through a foreigner, who was the only
person authorized to do so."
While the new phones will cost approximately 9 months pay for
the average wage earner in Cuba, thousands are still expected to be
purchased. Gustavo, 33 years-old, was among those early adopters, willing
to pay the premium, but did have critical words on the price. He stated,
"It is a very good measure, but what we earn does not correspond with the
The new cell phones will help Cuba, the Latin American country
with the lowest cell phone use, get up to speed. They will also allow
Cubans to make international calls, an unfamiliar freedom. Raul Castro
says it’s all part of removing what he calls "excessive prohibitions".
Cubans now have access to PCs, DVD players, and cell phones all
formerly banned for Cuban citizens' private use. The average Cuban only
earns $18 a month from the state. The new consumer electronics are priced
in convertible pesos (CUCs), which are worth 24 times standard pesos. A
cell phone costs roughly 60 CUCs and a line costs about 110 CUCs; together
totaling about $65. Mayerlin complained, "It is expensive for us. I
can't pay that in one month or in 10 months."
She says that only Cubans who rent rooms to foreigners, work
for a foreign company, or receive money from overseas could have such
finances. Others like Rosario Iglesias are just happy to have any access
in the first place. She states, "We used to go crazy looking for a
foreigner to get us a line. It
is a very good decision that benefits all Cubans and raises our self
Cuban telecommunications monopoly ETECSA is running the
cell phone effort, and promises to reinvest part of its earnings into further
developing new lines.