Ever since the U.S. and Cuba restored diplomatic relations in July, after 50 years of a near freeze-out, American companies have been eyeing the island nation as the ‘next big thing’ for business opportunities. They’re not wrong. With some 11 million potential customers a mere 93 miles from Florida, Cuba presents a tantalizing opportunity for any and all types of commerce.
So it was with a high degree of expectations that Cuba and telecom giant Sprint (News - Alert) signed a deal on November 2 providing a direct roaming mobile phone service for foreigners visiting Cuba. That’s according to the New Delhi-based Economic Times, and it might be a portent of things to come.
"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," Sprint chief executive Marcelo Claure is quoted as saying in a statement about the pact. "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."
That makes sense. (Americans and others) visiting will be bringing their creature comforts and technology with them, and it’s important that their “toys” work as expected. This deal is one step in assuring that that happens.
The embargo limits travel to Cuba for U.S. nationals to certain categories of visitor -- not including everyday tourists, the Economic Times said. Sprint added that it expects the number of visitors to Cuba to surge to five million a year within 10 years.
"I have a lot of faith that our governments will reach an agreement that will allow the free movement of Americans to Cuba," Claure said at the signing, during a visit by a business delegation to Cuba.
Only time will tell if he’s right.