Cuba Lifts Cell Phone Ban

By March 31, 2008

For the first time, Cuban citizens are legally allowed to own cell phones, as new President Raul Castro lifted the first major restriction under the post-Fidel government.   The restriction limited cell phone use to foreigners, ci

tizens working for foreign companies, and top government officials. In a statement published in the communist newspaper Granma, the state said, “ETECSA [Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A.] is able to offer mobile phone service to the public."   Cuban citizens will now be able to sign pre-paid contracts with the country’s telecommunications monopoly, but don’t expect hundreds of thousands of Cubans to rush and buy new phones.   Users will be billed in convertible pesos, a monetary system geared toward tourists that carries a 24 to 1 ratio to the regular Cuban peso. With most citizens earning a salary of about 20 USD per month, the outrageously high costs of using a cell phone won’t bring in too many new users. For example, a few simple camera phones that are probably outdated in America sell for $280 in Cuba.   The state said the costs of using cell phones would help build the fiber optics system on the island and improve telecommunications so that in the future users could be billed in the more economically viable Cuban peso.   Cell phones have been in Cuba since 1991, but the rigid restrictions limited their use. For years, though, Cuban citizens have worked their way around the law by signing up for phones with the name of a foreign friend.   It is unclear which cell phone providers will be used, though Nokia and Motorola phones are currently in use on the island.   Though the government has lifted cell phone restrictions, it is clear that most Cubans still will not be able to use them.   By Danny Scuderi   FEEDBACK For comments on this article, email us at

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