SO RAUL Castro is easing restrictions on the sale of DVDs and computers in Cuba. The obvious next move is to open up its cellular networks to the local people.
It's currently estimated that out of Cuba's population of 11 million, only 0.2 per cent have access to the cellular network. In effect, most of those are government officials.
Yet the country's cellular operator - Teléfonos Celulares de Cuba (Cubacel), operates a 900 MHz GSM network which has got pretty good national coverage for all the places tourists might want to visit.
The Inq's efforts to discover who sold the Cubans their GSM gear proved fruitless. Ericsson sold them their previous AMPS and TDMA gear.
Given that the US employs a economic embargo on Cuba, you'd expect the handsets on sale to be supplied by another supposed communist power such as China.
But, oh no. The vast majority of the models on the Cubacel site are supplied by Motorola with just one upcoming Nokia. So it's a market ripe for exploitation – just what the handset vendors want.
There's economic sense in opening up Cuba's cellular network since experience in developing markets shows they increase trade. Fishermen, for example, land their fish at whichever port has the strongest demand for that day's catch.
Reports always highlight how little the average Cuban earns but then GSM handsets which cost $20-$30 have now come into existence.
Curiously it's TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile) – rather than the likes of Telefonica/O2 – which stands the best chance of opening up Cuba. Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (Etecsa) which owns Cubacel is in turn part owned by Telecom Italia.
And, as the INQ has pointed out before, if North Korea can build a W-CDMA network, then why can't another communist state like Cuba? After all, the cellular industry virtually invented the concept of the 'walled garden' where only very restricted bits of the mobile web are accessible. µ
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