A government official in Cuba, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly, said Cuba has been waiting for the U.S. to approve a "group of companies" seeking to build telecommunications infrastructure. But the official could not confirm whether Cuba would ultimately give them permission to enter the market.
Cuba is the only nation in the Western Hemisphere that is not linked to the outside world by fiber optics. Instead, it relies on slow, expensive satellite links. While the cable could make calling very cheap, it would be up to the Cuban government to set rates, and it could keep restrictions on Internet access as well.
The government of Venezuela, a Cuban ally, has announced that it is building a fiber to Cuba, which could beat TeleCuba by getting to the island next year. But construction hasn't started, and TeleCuba has the advantage of a much shorter route: 110 miles, compared to 966 miles from Venezuela.
"We might get into a little race there with them," said Luis Coello, CEO of TeleCuba.
TeleCuba projects the costs of its fiber at $18 million, which will be financed by private investors, while Venezuela said this summer that it is planning to spend $70 million.
TeleCuba's fiber will follow the route of a defunct 1950s copper telephone cable from Key West to Cojimar, an eastern suburb of the Cuban capital, Havana. Apart from carrying communications, it will have scientific and weather sensors.
The capacity of the cable will be 8 to 10 terabits per second, enough for more than 160 million simultaneous phone calls. The last operational copper cable from Florida to Cuba could carry 144 phone calls at the same time.