The United States has indicated that it wants to sell Internet software, hardware and services in Cuba, but so far, it has not gone smoothly.
In late 2014, the U.S. government announced that it was taking “historic steps to chart a new course in [its] relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people.” Thereafter, the United States International Trade Commission began studying the effects of U.S. travel and trade restrictions with Cuba.
Earlier this year, the United States sent a delegation to Cuba to discuss the Internet and telecommunications industries. As a result, Internet equipment and service providers saw a huge potential in cracking the Cuban market. In fact, Google visited the country multiple times and made a proposal to install a wireless infrastructure. Cuba rejected the offer, however, most likely due to its lingering distrust of the company as well as the United States government.
The United States administration has now expanded its policies and are making it easier for American companies to create business relationships in Cuba. The companies are also authorized to provide some “certain” Internet-based and telecommunications services.
So far, only a few small Internet deals have taken place, such as Netflix offering accounts to Cuban citizens and Verizon offering cell-phone roaming in Cuba.
It appears that Cuba is turning to China rather than America for its Internet and cable needs. With respect to the presence of WiFi in “navigation rooms,” Youth Clubs and hotels, there are now 683 public access points in Cuba, all connected by an infrastructure provided by China. Chinese equipment was also used in the recent installation of many WiFi hotspots across Cuba and it is committed to adding more. Chinese companies are also providing DSL modems for network users.
Recent market studies show that Chinese Internet-related equipment and service sales are growing rapidly, given the large Cuban market.
Despite China’s success in breaching the Cuban market, it has become clear that China has experienced difficulty in collecting Cuban debt. Cuba still remains a tough place to do business.
As of now, it looks like China has beaten the United States to the punch for establishing successful Internet-related ventures in Cuba. While that is bad news for American companies, it should be noted that much of the equipment sold by China to Cuba is already becoming obsolete in today’s world. Therefore, more up-to-date technology will be needed. As American companies continue to try and impress the Cubans, hopefully they will succeed.