Verizon Wireless claims it has become the first US-based mobile operator to offer roaming services in Cuba, following the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Starting next week, Verizon Wireless customers who travel to the island will be able to make voice calls, send text messages and use data services, through the company’s pay-as-you-go ‘International Travel’ option. ‘Our customers are citizens of the world, and we want them to seamlessly enjoy a great Verizon experience wherever they travel,’ said Javier Farfan, Verizon’s vice president of cultural and segment marketing, adding: ‘By offering international services while traveling in Cuba, we are making it simple and easy for our customers to stay connected wherever and whenever they choose.’ Customers using a World Device who are traveling to Cuba can opt-in to add the pre-paid International Travel option; while on the island voice calls are charged at USD2.99 per minute, data is USD2.05 per MB and standard international messaging rates apply.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database states that in December 2014 the US announced landmark steps towards normalising relations with Cuba, initiating new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to telecoms and their ability to communicate freely. In March this year New Jersey-based IDT Telecom began handling direct international long-distance (ILD) traffic between the US and Cuba, after signing an agreement with state-owned telecoms monopoly Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA). In April Boost Mobile, a unit of Sprint Corporation, launched a pre-paid plan tailored for customers making calls and sending texts to Cuba, while the following month Florida-based SMS Cuba launched instant, two-way, phone-to-phone messaging services between the two countries.