Updated 04:48 PM EST, Tue, Jan 18, 2022

Sprint Signs First Wireless Deal With Cuba

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Telecommunications giant Sprint has signed a direct roaming deal with Cuba following the country's restored diplomatic relations with the U.S.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure made the deal official at a signing ceremony in Havana, Fox News Latino reported. The agreement allows Sprint subscribers to send and receive calls and text messages directly while visiting Cuba through the Telecommunications Company of Cuba, or ETECSA, which controls the Caribbean island's telecommunications service.

"As the commercial relationship between the U.S. and Cuba continues to progress, it is expected that the number of travelers to Cuba will increase exponentially," said Claure in a statement e-mailed to the press, as quoted by Fox News Latino. "We want to make sure any Sprint customer traveling to Cuba can use their phone the same way as they do in the United States."

Sprint said that it is the first U.S. wireless carrier to ink a direct agreement with ETECSA, although Verizon Wireless launched roaming services in Cuba in September. Computerworld reported from a Sprint spokeswoman said that the main difference between the two companies' deal is that "Verizon's roaming is achieved by piggybacking on to Vodafone's roaming agreement with ETECSA, while Spring struck a deal with ETECSA directly."

Aside from the direct roaming agreement, Claure also said that Sprint already created an interconnection agreement with ETECSA, Computerworld added. In August, Sprint unveiled Sprint Open World, which offers free unlimited calls and texts to its customers when they travel to Canada, Mexico, and majority of the Latin American countries.

Details of the cost and availability of Sprint's roaming deal are not announced yet. All U.S. wireless carriers are considering opening services in Latin America, such as Cuba, to boost revenues. Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, called Sprint's roaming announcement "a symbolic gesture more than anything else" because it can entice more Americans to travel to Cuba, Computerworld reported.

Claure's trip to Cuba kicked off with backlash. On Sunday, the executive tweeted, "Hola Cuba. Happy to be here in La Havana, Cuba." What enraged Cubans was the photo that accompanied his tweet, which was a snapshot of Marxist revolutionist and Fidel Castro ally Che Guevara, Fox News Latino wrote.

Guevara was a cultural icon to some people, but he was viewed by many as a cruel figure who was behind the execution of hundreds of Cubans without trial, the news outlet added. These Cubans have opposed Castro's rule.

Claure has since removed his tweet and posted a new one that reads, "I just deleted the picture I posted earlier while traveling in Cuba. My sincere apologies if I offended anyone. No harm intended."

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