Verizon offers international roaming in Cuba

As American companies race to set up shop in Cuba, Verizon has announced that it will provide mobile phone service there.

Charles Krupa/AP
Verizon has become the first US wireless company to let its customers make calls, send texts and use data while in Cuba.

If you are visiting Cuba, you may soon be able to make calls, send texts and use data while on the Caribbean Island.

Customers using a “world device" - a device capable of receiving signals in Cuba – have to first subscribe to the Pay-As-You-Go international travel option, Verizon said. But the option isn’t cheap. Voice calls are $2.99 a minute and data is $2.05 a megabyte. Standard international message rates apply.

Verizon doesn't own or operate any cell towers in Cuba, but it has set up roaming agreements with local Cuban telecom companies, according to CNN.

While Verizon is the first cell phone carrier to make its way over to Cuba, it’s not the first American business to make moves in the newest market.  

Since the United States announced the start of normalizing diplomatic relations with the island nation, there has been a growing interest in Cuba from US companies.  

In July, JetBlue began direct charter flights between New York City and the Cuban capital. It was the first flight to Cuba departing from New York in five decades.

MasterCard, Netflix, and Airbnb have also launched services in Cuba. 

The Obama administration is working with Havana to strike a deal that would allow commercial airlines to establish service between the US and Cuba by December of this year, as previously reported by The Christian Science Monitor. 

As ties between the two countries continue to normalize, it only seems a matter of time before more companies set up shop in this untapped market.

Earlier Friday, the White House released a new set of rules designed to loosen the US economic embargo on Cuba. “The rules, which take effect on Monday, Sept. 21, target travel, telecommunications, Internet-based services, business operations and banking, and allow US companies to establish a presence in Cuba. They also eliminate limits on the amount of money people can send back to the Caribbean nation,” Reuters reported.

"A stronger, more open US-Cuba relationship has the potential to create economic opportunities for both Americans and Cubans alike," Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement. "By further easing these sanctions, the United States is helping to support the Cuban people in their effort to achieve the political and economic freedom necessary to build a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.”

However, there’s a lot to be done, The Monitor reported recently.

“What makes Cuba both appealing and daunting is that companies have to start from the ground up. On one hand, Cuba is a blank canvas for corporations to leave their mark on the island nation. On the other hand, the US’s  65-year-old embargo has left the country with deteriorating and unreliable infrastructure.”

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