America's second largest carrier, AT&T, announced today that they are going to introduce roaming for customers of their network traveling to Cuba. The company has formed a roaming and interconnection deal with telecom operator, Empresa De Telecomunicaciones De Cuba, typically known as ETECSA. ETECSA is a government-owned, full telecoms business for Cuba, which covers cellular and fixed line services. America's other three national carriers, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, have already arranged similar roaming agreements for the island of Cuba after American President Barack Obama made improvements to the relationship with Cuba in 2015.
At this time, details of the roaming arrangement are unavailable – AT&T state that they will provide availability and pricing details at a later, undisclosed, date. In such cases, customers can expect AT&T's agreement to not only allow customers access to the ETECSA's network for calling, texting and data services whilst still using their AT&T SIM cards and devices, but also to reduce the costs of calling the country from an AT&T fixed line and cellular phone. AT&T's Bill Hague, executive vice president of global connection management, explained in a press release: "Cuba is a growing international calling destination for our customers. With this agreement, AT&T customers soon will be able to seamlessly connect with talk, text and data while visiting Cuba." The ETECSA's website explains that the two businesses still need to complete interconnection tests before the service is enabled.
The costs of making and receiving calls in Cuba are expensive, even for tourists. Between the hours of 0700 to 2259 hours, it costs 0.35 CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) a minute to make or receive a call, which drops to 0.10 CUC during off peak hours. The only Cuban mobile network is the ETECSA, which operates a 2G and 3G network at the 900 MHz frequency and 2G only at the 850 MHz point. Although AT&T use the 850 MHz frequency for 2G calls and text messages, the company has announced plans that it is to shut down this part of the network by the start of 2017. It is unclear how many AT&T-sold devices will be able to connect to Cuba's cellular network. Nevertheless, although AT&T are the last of America's national carriers to organize a roaming arrangement with Cuba, this is a welcomed development.