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New research on Cuba’s telecom sector remains a peculiarity, with state control having stymied rather than promoted the development of all sectors. The country has the lowest mobile phone and internet penetration rates in the region, while fixed-line teledensity is also very low. Fixed-line and mobile services remain a monopoly of the government-controlled Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETESCA Cubacel).
Although there are strict state restrictions over the right to own and use certain communications services, including the right to access the internet, a thawing of relations between the US and Cuba has encouraged the government to improve access to services. Since 2015 Wi-Fi hotspots have been put in a number of places, and though connectivity is slow and in many public areas a thriving black market has emerged in which connections are duplicated using software or nano routers, the cost of access was reduced in 2018.
Access to sites is also tightly controlled and censored. A DSL service was launched in March 2017 in areas of Havana and has since been expanded though costs have been set too high for most Cubans able to access the service. Similarly, 3G services have been launched and were available to about two-thirds of the population by the end of 2018. However, costs are high and locals accept that the technology is dated. Although ETESCA has announced plans to trial LTE there is as yet no progress evident.