In Summary
  • Cuba's internet provider Etecsa rolled out its 3G service from 8:00 am to answer pent-up demand

  • Etecsa carried out several tests of its fledgling 3G service in recent months.

HAVANA,

Cuba became one of the last countries in the world to get 3G mobile internet services on Thursday, though most citizens on the communist-run island won't be able to afford it.

Cuba's internet provider Etecsa rolled out its 3G service from 8:00 am to answer pent-up demand, though initially only for clients with numbers beginning with a 52 or 53 prefix.

Others will have to cool their heels for a few more days before they can connect to the 21st Century.

At $30 dollars for 4 gigabytes per month — an average monthly wage — the convenience will be too costly for most.

The roll-out left Idalmist Mendoza a little frustrated on a Havana street.

"The prices are a little bit high. But well, maybe with time, if there are a lot of people signing up, prices will go down," said the bureau de change employee.

According to government figures, some 5.3 million people on the island use mobile phones, a little under half the population of 11.2 million.

WIFI ZONES

Cubans have relied for years on WiFi zones in public parks and squares.

There, it's common to see hundreds of people talking, laughing and crying into their phone screens, keeping in touch with some of the two million Cubans in exile.

Etecsa's home internet service, Nauta Hogar, only has 60,000 clients. Their connections costs are often paid by family members aboard, as a means of keeping in touch.

"Mobile internet in Cuba, it's for people with money, because those that don't have it won't be able to connect much," said Hector David, 28.

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