Sprint has penned a deal with Cuba’s state-run telecommunications company ETECSA, letting the U.S. carrier’s customers use mobile data in the country for the first time.
The deal comes shortly after President Obama announced plans to establish relations with the country, which is currently under a U.S. trade embargo. Millions of Americans are expected to visit Cuba if Congress removes the embargo, which has been deemed illegal by the United Nations General Assembly since 1992.
“We want to make sure any Sprint customer traveling to Cuba can use their phone the same way as they do in the United States,” said chief executive officer Marcelo Claure in a statement.
Sprint’s partnership with the country’s state-run carrier means prices are not going to be cheap. Data in the country is out of reach for most Cubans, with one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the world at 25 percent. Cuba is beginning to adopt cheaper wireless technology, to give the younger generation access to the Internet.
The Cuban roaming services will be added into Sprint Open World and Sprint Global Roaming packages. The former offers cheap roaming costs for U.S. customers visiting Canada, Mexico, and most other countries in Latin America.
Sprint is not the first firm to reach an agreement with Cuba for roaming. Verizon announced a deal earlier in the month with smaller carrier services in the country. Sprint claims, though, that by having a direct deal with ETECSA, it will be able to provide better service in the country.
Verizon and Sprint both use 3G and LTE bands that are unavailable in Cuba, forcing them to make a deal with local carriers. T-Mobile and AT&T shouldn’t have those issues if customers visit Cuba, though we expect both to make deals with the nation at some point to reduce their own roaming costs.