Malecon to become Havana's largest Wi-Fi hotspot

Posted: 27-Sep-16 09:14

The Cuban capital's most photographed seafront promenade is about to get a technological upgrade with the government announcing that work would be soon carried out to convert the area into an internet ready Wi-Fi zone for public use. This highly frequented sea-facing esplanade will soon become another of the few places in the capital allowing locals to get online for a fee.

Malecon to become Havana's largest Wi-Fi hotspot

A recent announcement by Cuban state media has revealed that the much-trodden Malecon, the city’s long, highly concurred (and some could argue, most photogenic) spot, will soon be made into a Wi-Fi enabled zone allowing locals, tourists and passers-by to gain online access for an hourly fee of $ 2 CUC.

With official sources revealing that the new Wi-Fi service would be installed along virtually the whole length of the nearly eight-kilometre-long seawall, users will have ample space for choosing a spot to connect with the world wide web. And, since the iconic Malecon is already the city’s most popular hangout spot for city dwellers, we can only imagine it will get more crowded than ever before.

Still, eight kilometres is plenty of space to move around and this lively part of Havana is always buzzing with the sound of energetic chatter, laughter, music and general merriment. So, there couldn’t be a better backdrop in which to take a few snaps and instantly upload them to your social media account, unless you want utter stillness and quiet to enjoy your browsing, but Cuba is not a place for that and if you come here you shouldn’t waste much of your valuable holiday time strapped to your phone anyway. Not when there’s so much more to do, see, enjoy and experience besides.

In June last year the Cuban state-owned telecommunications company, ETECSA, had announced 36 new Wi-Fi hotspots islandwide to go live the following month. Seven of these were in the capital but the one supposed to cover the Malecon’s length was still pending. After the new Wi-Fi service is up and running, the Malecon will become Cuba’s largest Wi-Fi hotspot, in what sadly still remains one of the world’s most poorly connected nations, despite efforts to improve both speed and availability.

After the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. big internet companies like Google pledged to improve Cuba’s internet service and the fruits of this labour involved Google partnering with Cuban artist KCho to get involved in community projects and provide internet access with speeds 70 times faster than the average across the island.

Regardless, internet access remains very limited and precarious in Cuba, with Havana offering the most possibilities when it comes to finding connected hubs to get online. Even so, and despite the efforts by some hotels to offer wider internet access (like Melia extending Wi-Fi service to all its hotels in Cuba) some tourists still complain of the poor availability and frustratingly slow speed, including famous ones, like British actor Jason Isaacs, who during his stay in the island last June jokingly remarked:

“Been in amazing, seductive, inspirational Cuba where the internet was as medieval and inconsistent as Trump’s putrid ramblings.”

That however, hasn’t stopped all celebrities heading to Cuba this summer from instantly uploading selfies and videos of their Cuba holidays, including Madonna, who extensively covered her visit with a whole series of videos and pictures shared across all her social media accounts. Improving internet access for American visitors, last December, a partnership between Spring and ETECSA allowed more U.S. visitors to use roaming service in Cuba while just last month AT&T and ETECSA signed a roaming and interconnection agreement. Hopefully, it’s only a matter of time before internet access is more widespread all across Cuba, with higher more reliable speeds and connection, not just for visitors but especially for average Cubans who have to jump many hurdles to get online. Last February a pilot programme offering broadband internet access in private Cuban homes launched, but the outcome of such has not yet been revealed and service has not been expanded so far.


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