Sprint Inks Deal With Cuba for International Wireless Roaming
Sprint announced this week that it has signed an agreement to introduce wireless roaming in Cuba. As the hermetic island nation continues to open itself to U.S. trade and commerce, Sprint's deal with Cuba's state-run telecommunications company marks a historic first, as well as a smart move by Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure.
On Monday, Sprint announced it was the first U.S. wireless carrier to offer direct roaming service to customers who travel to Cuba.
Sprint users will be able to send and receive calls and texts while in the communist country thanks to an agreement penned between Sprint and the state monopoly-holding Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA). The deal was announced at a signing ceremony in Havana as part of the U.S.-Cuba Business Council's delegation to the country.
"As the only U.S. carrier with a direct roaming agreement and a direct long-distance interconnection agreement with Cuban provider ETECSA, Sprint is leading the way for U.S.-Cuba telecommunications," boasted Sprint in its announcement release. "More than 3 million people from around the world are expected to visit Cuba this year. Within 10 years, that number is projected to grow to more than 5 million."
Sprint, and other companies looking to open commerce in Cuba, is counting on the recent thaw in relations between the revolutionary communist country and the U.S. to continue unabated, opening up business opportunities in a completely untapped market. While the Obama administration has loosened many sanctions against Cuba, the U.S. Congress has yet to fully remove the decades-long embargo imposed against the country.
Nevertheless, Sprint is making a bet on the current trend of widening relations and commerce between the two former enemies continuing.
"As the commercial relationship between the U.S. and Cuba continues to progress, it is expected that the number of travelers to Cuba will increase exponentially," said Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure -- who is of Bolivian origin, speaks fluent Spanish, and has made a point in his short tenure to direct his company towards Latino consumers and opportunities in Latin America.
"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," added Claure.
Sprint isn't the only carrier betting on the continuing thaw, and though the company claims it is the first to sign a "direct" agreement with Cuba, ComputerWorld noted that Verizon had already begun international roaming on the island in September.
Verizon's roaming consists strictly of 2G voice and data, and the cost per minute is one of the highest in the market: $2.99 per minute for voice and $2.05 per megabyte for data.
Sprint hasn't disclosed the pricing of its roaming service in Cuba yet.
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