US companies are opening up relations with Cuba as President Obama loosens the 54-year US economic embargo on the Caribbean Communist nation, and major American mobile operators are no exception.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) Monday announced a direct connection deal with Cuban state operator Etecsa. The deal will allow voice calls between the operator's networks to be completed -- after testing has been finished -- without having to be carried traffic over third-party networks.
Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) signed a roaming deal with Etecsa in November, after President Obama first started unilateral steps to chip away at some communications and travel restrictions against Cuba. Only Congress, however, can fully remove the embargo, which is seen as unlikely with the Republicans in control of the house.
Nonetheless, as President Obama prepares to visit Havana, communications companies are seen to be exploring opportunities to open up links with Cuba.
That US telecom companies are moving faster on Cuban deals than many other US companies should not be too surprising, with the Caribbean island crying out for infrastructure updates.
"Cuba remains one of the least digitally connected countries in our hemisphere," wrote Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler in January. "They talk about upgrading to DSL and 3G wireless."
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading