Heavy use of Cuba mobile e-mail service strains cellular network

EFE Ingles |

Havana, Jun 25 (EFE).- More than 238,000 customers have signed on in just three months for a new mobile e-mail service in Cuba despite its high cost, taking state telecoms company Etecsa by surprise and causing network disruptions.The number of people signing up for cellphone contracts on the island soared between March and May, with a total of 173,098 new handsets on the network, according to Etecsa, which said 238,687 wireless phone users acquired a local e-mail address via the island's nauta.cu system."Growth was not expected to be so rapid," Etecsa's director of institutional communication, Luis Manuel Diaz, said in an interview with Communist Party daily Granma.He acknowledged that "intensive use" of the new mobile e-mail service has caused disruptions to wireless telephony, including an inability to connect with other cellphones, dropped calls and text messages failing to arrive at their destination or arriving only after a lengthy delay.The new e-mail modality has resulted in 29 million e-mails being sent in just three months, or an average of 400,000 e-mails delivered daily and 2 terabytes of data in total, the Etecsa director said.The company said it hopes to solve the problems by installing 80 base stations nationwide, 34 of which are already in place.In early March, Etecsa announced the launch of this new service at a price of 1 convertible peso ($1) per megabyte received or sent via e-mail, a high rate for most of inhabitants of the island, where the average salary is just $20 a month.But demand has surpassed expectations despite the cost and the fact that users can only send e-mails to - and receive them from - others with a nauta.cu account.Mobile access to e-mail is a popular novelty in a country where the vast majority of people lack a home Internet connection.The Cuban government prioritizes Internet use in public places and expanded that access in June 2013 by opening more than 200 new state-run Internet cafes.Etecsa was apparently surprised at how eagerly Cubans have taken to the company's mobile e-mail service."A woman told me she checks her e-mail up to 80 times (a day) and that (level of use) is more typical of a chat service. Normally people only check their e-mail two or three times a day," Diaz told Granma. EFEsam/mc

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