Second Segment of Fiber Optic Cable Connects to Cuba

The fiber optic cable, which is expected to improve Cuba's connectivity to the Internet, is of utmost importance to the country, and every piece of information continues to clarify the current state of this technological infrastructure. In the past days, U.S. company Renesys announced on its blog that during this week they “observed a second non-satellite connection established for the Cuban state telecom, ETECSA [Cuban State Telecommunications Company]”.

In January of this year, Renesys stated that the ALBA-1 submarine cable had begun to bring Internet traffic in the segment that connects Cuba to Venezuela.

According to Doug Madory, a Renesys employee:

esta vez un segmento diferente del cable submarino ALBA-1 se utiliza para conectar Cuba a la isla vecina de Jamaica. A las 15:04 UTC del 13 de mayo de 2013, se observó que ETECSA comenzó a recibir el servicio internacional de Internet a través de Cable & Wireless Jamaica

this time a different segment from the ALBA-1 submarine cable is being used to connect Cuba to its neighboring island, Jamaica. At 15:04 UTC on May 13, 2013, it was observed that ETECSA began receiving international Internet service through Cable & Wireless Jamaica

Madory also confirmed that two weeks ago, during a presentation by LACNIC 19 [es] in Medellín, Colombia, ETECSA representatives confirmed the initial statements from Renesys. According to the employee, “it was a pleasure meeting some of the people involved in this historic activation.”

The description of the project [es] on the Cuba-Venezuela International Telecommunications Systems confirms that the Cuba-Jamaica segment will be used for “the purpose of restoration.” As a result, Renesys believes the activation could “help alleviate some minor connectivity problems recently experienced by ETECSA.”

Image of the connection between Cuba, Venezuela, and Jamaica through the ALBA 1 fiber optic cable. Taken from the Renesys blog.

Image of the connection between Cuba, Venezuela, and Jamaica through the ALBA 1 fiber optic cable. Taken from the Renesys blog.

Following the Cuban State Telecommunications Company's initial statements in January 2013 regarding the operational nature of the fiber optic cable and the start of several tests, a group of resident users on the island took to social networks to discuss computerization and increased Internet access in the country.

According to Daniel Salas [es], professor at the University of Havana:

Para irnos montando en el debate sobre cómo extender Internet en Cuba, podríamos empezar por ir teniendo claro cuál es la situación de la infraestructura nacional de comunicaciones, qué nodos enlaza la fibra óptica nacional, cuál es la saturación de las centrales telefónicas y los pares de cobre, qué tipos de soluciones tecnológicas estarían disponibles y sus costos, y no estaría de más saber un poquito de las cuentas de ETECSA.

In order to continue participating actively in the debate on how to extend Internet in Cuba, we could start by clarifying the current situation of the national communications infrastructure, which nodes the fiber optic cable links, the saturation of central operator exchanges and copper pairs, the types of technological solutions that would be available and their costs, and it would not hurt to know a bit about the ETECSA accounts.

Meanwhile, Cuban professor and researcher Milena Recio considered [es]:

Según la nota de ETECSA, se derivan dos posturas de política: 1) habrá que sacar divisas de algunos servicios para repartir gratuidad en otros. Dice: “aumentar los recursos en divisas, destinados a pagar el tráfico de Internet”. Es decir, se mantiene el esquema gratuidad; 2) se multiplicarán las posibilidades de acceso, aunque no “automáticamente”, pero se multiplicarán. Es decir, no solo mejorarán las actuales. Ahora bien, preguntas posibles ¿conectividad social, implica necesariamente gratuidad? ¿qué parte de la infraestructura interna de telecomunicaciones se priorizará en función de qué objetivos?

According to ETECSA's announcement, there are two political positions: 1) currency will have to be taken from certain services in order to deliver free services in others. It says: “increase foreign exchange resources, intended to pay for internet traffic.” This is to say that it maintains the free-of-charge scheme; 2) Access possibilities will multiply, though not “automatically,” but they will multiply. This is to say that not only will the current ones improve. Now, possible questions – does social connectivity necessarily imply a free-of-charge service? which part of the internal telecommunications infrastructure will be prioritized depending on which objectives?

The Cuban telecommunications company's late statement also motivated a number of criticisms among bloggers. Blog Fanal Cubano reflects it as follows [es]:

El sólo hecho de divulgar cuatro días antes esta propia nota, escueta, pero rotunda, habría despojado a ETECSA de la responsabilidad de darle un sesgo confirmativo al hecho, y nuestra entidad, cubana ciento por ciento, hubiese emergido como fuente portadora de una noticia de alcance mundial por su significado, en tanto victoria de la integración regional sobre la política de cerco económico, comercial y financiero practicada por los Estados Unidos contra Cuba desde hace más de medio siglo.

The mere fact of divulging this very brief yet emphatic announcement four days earlier, ETECSA would have been stripped of the responsibility of giving it a confirmatory bias, and our entity, one hundred percent Cuban, would had emerged as the source for news of global reach because of its significance, as much as it would have been a victory of regional integration over the economic, commercial and financial siege of the United States against Cuba for over half a century.

Cuba currently has a bandwidth of 323 Mbps (megabits per second) via satellite for the entire island. A website can take several minutes to open and even hours to see a video.


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