Sprint has become the first United States-based telecommunications company to provide direct roaming mobile phone service to foreigners in Cuba. The deal was announced Monday in Havana, the Cuban capital.
Sprint signed the deal with Cuba’s state-operated telecommunications agency Etecsa. Roaming service is the ability of mobile phone users to operate their devices when away from home or outside their local calling area.
Sprint wants to reach rising numbers of foreign tourists in Cuba. The company says it expects the number of visitors there to reach five million a year within the next 10 years.
The deal comes as the United States and Cuba continue to explore possible business deals. The two countries reestablished diplomatic relations in July for the first time in more than 54 years.
Under the new agreement, Sprint’s customers will now be able to generate and receive calls and text messages in Cuba from their personal mobile devices.
Marcelo Claure is Sprint’s president and Chief Executive Officer. He considers the deal an important step for both countries.
"This is a big deal because it shows that the U.S. and Cuba working together in an area of progress which is communications, and we expect this to be the beginning of a long-term relationship between Sprint and between Etecsa."
The agreement was announced at the Havana International Fair 2015. Reports say 900 businesses sent representatives to the fair. One third of them were Cuban. About 70 countries, including the United States, took part in the event.
Sprint is not the only U.S. company offering telecommunications services in Cuba. One of Sprint’s main rivals is Verizon. That company announced in September that it would offer a roaming service to its clients visiting Cuba. However, that service is provided indirectly, through a third-party contracted by Etecsa.
Some business watchers are concerned that U.S. companies have fallen behind those of Cuba’s strategic partners. Those countries include Cuba’s traditional allies, such as China, Russia and, more recently, Venezuela. Spain also has developed successful commercial relations with Cuba. The country had the largest foreign presence this year at the Havana International Fair. Of the 600 foreign companies taking part, 150 were from Spain.
I’m Mario Ritter.
Ramon Taylor reported on this story from Washington. Mario Ritter adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
roaming – adj. the use of a cell phone outside the usual area
customer(s) – n. people or organizations that buy goods or services
generate – v. to make or produce
rival – n. a person or thing that tries to defeat or be more successful that another
clients – n. a person who pays a professional person or organization for services
strategic – adj. of or related to a general plan to reach a goal in business, politics or war
commercial - adj. related to the buying or selling of goods and services