ETECSA and Google agree to explore improved network connectivity

ETECSA, the Cuban State Telecommunications Company, and Google owned by Alphabet Inc, have agreed to explore improving internet traffic connectivity between their two networks.

ETECSA’s Vice President of Investment, Luis Adolfo Iglesias, and Google’s Head of Strategy and Operations in Cuba, Brett Perlmutter, signed a memorandum of understanding in Havana on 28 March that will enable the negotiation of an Internet traffic exchange agreement with the aim of improving the quality of Cuban access to online content.

The memorandum allows for what is known as a ‘peering- direct connection’ or ‘traffic pairing’ enabling a free direct connection between the two networks.

To achieve this, Google and ETECSA have agreed to study ways to establish a link between Cuba’s network and Google’s nearest point of presence either in Mexico, Colombia or South Florida. The agreement creates a joint working group of engineers to determine how this is best achieved “when technical conditions allow it”.

“The implementation of this internet traffic exchange service is part of the strategy of ETECSA for the development and computerisation of the country,” the two companies said in a joint statement. Such an arrangement would enable a state-of-the-art connection, enable faster access to content hosted by Google, and obviate Cuba having to pay intermediaries.

Google began to develop a wider role in Cuba during the period of détente introduced by President Obama. It is unclear, however, the extent to which the Trump Administration endorses the company’s engagement, although, so far, it has maintained Obama-era exceptions for US telecommunications companies to provide services that might increase the flow of information to Cuba. In 2016, Google granted Cuban internet users faster access to its content.

Cuba’s Ministry of Communications has previously said that there are more than 5.4m active cell phones in use of which almost 2m are Internet access enabled. Of these, 165,000 were reportedly using the country’s 3G network and more than 4,000 had registered for 4G. However, to stabilise Cuba’s telecommunications system, officials have recently said that it will be necessary to establish 300 new base stations in densely populated urban areas to meet demand.


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