Sprint signed a roaming agreement with Cuba's telecommunications company Monday, becoming the second U.S. company able to provide roaming service on the island.
As the commercial relationship between the United States and Cuba progresses and with more U.S. travelers to the island expected, “We want to make sure any Sprint customer traveling to Cuba can use their phone the same way as they do in the United States,” said Marcelo Claure, Sprint chief executive.
Claure made the announcement at a signing ceremony in Havana on a trip to Cuba with a delegation from the U.S.-Cuba Business Council. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce formed the advocacy group in September as part of its commitment to building a strategic commercial relationship between the United States and Cuba.
Sprint said rates and a start date for the service will be announced soon. The direct arrangement includes a direct roaming agreement and a direct long-distance interconnection between Sprint, the nation’s fourth largest carrier, and Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA), Cuba’s government telecom company.
In September, Verizon Wireless became the first U.S. wireless company to offer roaming in Cuba. Customers with a world device who sign up for the company’s Pay-As-You-Go International Travel option can make and receive calls while traveling in Cuba. Verizon charges $2.99 per minute for voice calls and $2.05 per megabyte for data.
Verizon’s roaming arrangement is with a third-party company, and it does not have a direct agreement with ETECSA, said Chuck Hamby, a company spokesman. “The feedback we’ve had so far [on the carrier’s roaming in Cuba] has been great. Our customers tell us they like the convenience of being able to use their own phones on the island.”
Even though the U.S. trade embargo remains in effect, as part of the rapprochement with Cuba that began Dec. 17 last year, U.S. companies are allowed to sell personal communications equipment and telecom services in Cuba and to enter into agreements to improve Cuba’s Internet and telecom infrastructure. A set of U.S. regulations released in September went even further, allowing telecom companies to have a presence on the island through subsidiaries, branches, offices, joint ventures, franchises, agencies or other business relationships with ETECSA, other businesses or individuals.
Mimi Whitefield on Twitter: @HeraldMimi