Planning a trip to Cuba? Starting this summer, T-Mobile customers will be able to use their phones there. The company is also offering cheaper calling rates to the island nation.
The No. 3 US carrier on Monday announced an interconnect and roaming arrangement with Cuban wireless provider, Empresa De Telecomunicaciones De Cuba, S.A. (ETECSA). The deal means that T-Mobile can provide affordable voice calls to customers who want to reach friends and relatives on the island. It also means that starting in July, T-Mobile customers can take their phones with them to Cuba and still get access to voice, text and data roaming.
The Bellevue, Washington, wireless carrier said the arrangement will make calling Cuba from the US 65 percent less expensive. Calls to landlines and wireless phones in Cuba from the US will cost 60 cents per minute with the monthly "Stateside International Talk" feature that costs an additional $15 a month.
Verizon and Sprint already offer roaming to Cuba. But T-Mobile says it serves more customers with ties to Cuba than any other provider in the US. It claims more than a third of all Cuban-born wireless customers in the US use T-Mobile's service, which is more than AT&T and triple the number of Verizon customers. The company also said that Cuba is the No. 1 requested addition to its international roaming program.
"We have more customers of Cuban descent than any other wireless provider -- so connecting them with family and friends in Cuba is a message we heard loud and clear!" John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile, said in a statement.
The more than 50-year trade embargo between the US and Cuba severely stunted Cuba's economic growth. As a result, the communications infrastructure in Cuba has not kept up with modern advances in wireless and Internet. But things are changing in Cuba since the US began normalizing relations with the country in 2009. Diplomatic ties have been restored, and the countries have reopened embassies in Cuba.
Cuba's infrastructure is expected to continue to improve as US travelers flock to its shores. In February, Cuba and the US agreed for the first time in more than 50 years to resume commercial flights between the countries, allowing US citizens easier access to the island. President Barack Obama visited the communist island nation in March, marking the first time in nearly 90 years that a sitting US president has visited Cuba.