ETECSA began testing the 4G network in Havana on March 8, 2019. The 4G network can now be accessed with a frequency of 1800 MHz FDD (Frequency Duplex Division) in certain areas of the City. It was only in December that the Company launched internet access on mobile phones.
Today, 80% of mobile phone manufacturers use this standard, so the probability that purchased cell phones in Cuba will have access to LTE 1800 MHz FDD is most likely.
The 4G technology testing began in Havana on Friday. The pilot testing was to monitor network behavior and the functioning of the new network. The Director of Channel Management at ETECSA, Yusnely Llano González, told the Cuban media at a press conference that the rollout of the new technology was not yet the deployment of the LTE (Long Term Evolution) but rather, “is introducing the technology and when the conditions are there and a significant penetration will be launched with specific offers. “
Testing began on the coastal areas of Havana from the eastern neighborhood of La Bahía de La Habana to Santa Fé in Playa in the west. Stage two of the testing will extend to the Port of Mariel area, some 40 miles further west of Havana. The infrastructure is already in place. ETECSA said that roaming customers in Varadero and Cárdenas already have access to this technology.
Monitoring network behavior and managing mobile data loads were some of the objectives of the ETECSA 4G pilot testing. Not all of ETECSA customers in this area will have access to the 4G network during the pilot testing. The test focused on heavy users of data – those who use 2.5 GB or more in the mentioned areas.
ETECSA has identified heavy data users who consume a minimum of 2.5 GB each month. Llano González said that the pilot test, “…will allow us to evaluate the network and decongest the traffic on the 3G network. So far about ten thousand potential customers have been identified. It is necessary to clarify that, for example, at the country level, only seven percent of the clients that make data traffic in the current network generate 52% of the total volume. ” Users also had to have an ETECSA USIM card to be included in the testing.
The ETECSA USIM card is a smartcard with greater storage space and possesses the technical ability to access LTE.
Clients involved in the 4G pilot (voluntary participation) will share their commentary and evaluation on the access testing. Persons interested in being involved in the initial rollout have an option to go ahead and purchase an LTE in 1800 MHz FDD cell phone. Clients with an ETECSA Sim card can exchange the SIM card for a new USIM for three CUCs.
Zoe Veraz is a content writer, freelance journalist and regular contributor to the Cuba Business Report.