Is U.S.-Cuba Texting the Next Telecom Barrier to Fall?

 Cubans using cell phones, which their communist government allowed them to purchase for personal use in 2008.

Cubans using cell phones, which their communist government allowed them to purchase for personal use in 2008.

By Tim Padgett May 8, 2015

If you’ve ever tried to send a text message to someone in Cuba, you know that… you can’t do it. But as the U.S. and Cuba normalize relations, a number of telecom barriers between the two countries are coming down. And it looks like the latest is texting.

In March, the U.S. and Cuba re-established direct telephone links. Now, a new company in Fort Lauderdale called SMS Cuba says it’s offering the first direct text messaging service across the Florida Straits. SMS Cuba CEO Frank Caruso says registered customers can send a text to Cuban mobile phones just as they would send messages here in the U.S.

“The message then comes to our network," says Caruso. "From there we transfer the network interconnections to some partners that we have that deliver it right to the Cuban mobile infrastructure. And it comes in just the same as it would any other text message.”

Caruso says the person in Cuba can then reply as one normally would.

So why hasn’t this service appeared until now? It seems to have been a simple issue of market demand. And that all changed in December when President Obama announced the U.S. and Cuba would re-establish diplomatic ties.

“Given the events of the most recent months," says Caruso, "we knew that the increase in communications was going to be substantial and demand for this would be very high.”

Customers can sign up at the company’s website, SMSCuba.com. The rate for the service’s basic plan is about ten cents per text, but Caruso says it also offers an unlimited texts plan.

SMS Cuba says Cuba's communist government, which tends to regulate telecom more than other industries on the island, hasn't raised any objections to the new direct texting arrangement.

http://wlrn.org/post/us-cuba-texting-next-telecom-barrier-fall

Audio: http://cpa.ds.npr.org/wlrn/audio/2015/05/Cuba_Text_Message_WR_mixdown_web.mp3