Now that American diplomatic relationships with Cuba have thawed, so too have lines of communication between the two countries, including cell phone service. On Thursday, telecommunications giant Verizon announced it would be offering call, text, and data access to its customers living in or visiting the island nation, making it the first major American carrier to do so.
But proceed with caution and a watchful eye on your timers and bank accounts — the Pay-As-You-Go International Travel plan that the new cellphone roaming service will offer costs $3 a minute for calls, invokes standard international messaging fees, and — get this — will require you to pay $2.05 per megabyte of data. So really, if you’re planning on taking a vacation to this Caribbean country, it may be smarter to just unplug altogether.
While Verizon is the first cellphone carrier to make its way over to Cuba, it’s by no means the first American business to make moves in the newest market. Already, MasterCard, Netflix, and Airbnb have expanded their offerings and services to Cuban nationals, and as ties continue to normalize, it only seems a matter of time before more companies start exploring this previously unreachable territory.
When it comes to cell phone service, the introduction of more providers will likely come as a welcome development in Cuba, as only 2 million of its 11 million-strong population currently have mobile access. Cuban officials, however, say that in this new chapter of their country’s history, they hope to greatly expand the citizenry’s access to technology as a whole, and are aiming for 60 percent cell phone penetration by 2020.
Many in Cuba blame the 54-year long American embargo for the nation’s relatively slow modernization, but now that the winds have finally shifted, times are changing in the country, and hopefully fast. So while you may not want to shell out $2,000 for a gigabyte of data usage while you’re in Cuba, at least you now have the option to do so.