HAVANA, Dec 4 - Cubans will be able to access the internet on their mobile phones from Thursday, state-run telecoms monopoly ETECSA said, marking a milestone for what has always been one of the Western Hemisphere's least connected countries. After all, it was only 10 years ago that the Castro government lifted its ban that prohibited regular citizens from buying computers, and Internet access in private homes was rare before 2016.
"After three tests of our broadband infrastructure, mobile internet connections will be available gradually to all Cuban cellphone clients starting on December 6", said Mayra Arevich, the ETECSA executive president, on a Cuban State TV program.
Almost half of the Communist-run country's 11.2 million residents have cellphones although not all will be able to afford mobile internet.
Everyone in Cuba who has phones with 3G facility can gain access to the internet via their mobile phones.
Velázquez announced that access to state-run applications and websites like Ecured, a Cuban Wikipedia, would be significantly cheaper than access to the World Wide Web.
"It was about time this became a possibility for Cubans too", he told ABC News.
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Cuba authorized home internet in 2017 and hundreds of public Wi-Fi connection points have opened in parks and plazas around the country. ETECSA also routes some traffic through a private satellite.
Cuba has one of the world's lowest rates of internet use, but service began expanding in recent years under then President Raul Casto, and current President Miguel Diaz-Canel has said he wants to expand connectivity for Cubans.
The regime has also been opening state-owned internet cafes since 2013 and wifi hotspots in public places since 2015.
In 2015, President Obama allowed USA businesses to invest in Cuba's telecom sector. Because of the size of the service rollout, Cuba's telecom company will send those notifications over the course of three days.
ETECSA vice president Tania Velázquez said that her company would roll out the service over the next few days to avoid congesting the network after some complained that they were unable to send and receive messages while 3G internet testing was conducted earlier this year.