Cuba's sole mobile phone network, ETECSA says that its subscriber base has surged by 60% to reach nearly half a million customers after the government relaxed the conditions for private citizens to buy mobile phones.
President Raul Castro's government lifted a ban which had restricted ownership to tourists and VIPs in April last year. Nearly 8,000 new connections were sold in the first ten days after the restrictions were lifted. The government also halved the sign-up fee - although it still represents about three months wages for the average worker.
The local newspaper, Juventud Rebelde reported that around 480,000 cellular lines are now in use, compared with 300,000 before the law change.
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Source: Cellular News.
The US government also made it easier for Cubans to use mobile phones after it lifted an import embargo on the handsets and allowed relatives living in the USA to send phones back home to their families.
"Now that the Cuban people can be trusted with mobile phones, they should be trusted to speak freely in public," former President Bush said at the time. "If Raul's serious about his so-called reforms, he will allow these phones to reach the Cuban people."
ETECSA, a joint venture with Telecom Italia, charges US$2.70 per minute to call the USA. Making or receiving local calls costs US$0.30 a minute.