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Communications The Internet Politics

Can Cuba Skip Cell Phone Connectivity? 138

lpress writes: Cuba has a second generation cellular network and Internet access is limited to about 5% of the population via work and school accounts and (mostly dial up) access in a few homes, so it was big news when they rolled out 35 public WiFi hotspots. Can they expand this public WiFi and skip 3G and 4G cell infrastructure until 5G equipment is available in about five years? By then, the US trade embargo will be gone, the Cuban economy will be improved and 5G and other wireless technologies will be available. Will they even need cell phone capability by then? The linked post has some interesting musings that apply to places other than Cuba, as well.
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Can Cuba Skip Cell Phone Connectivity?

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  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Friday August 14, 2015 @10:10PM (#50320529) Journal

    You make communications too cheap and easy, and there won't be any profit in it...

    • Milk is profitable still. So are eggs. Trust me, everything that matters will remain fairly profitable. Governments will guarantee it.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Friday August 14, 2015 @10:33PM (#50320593) Homepage

        Excuse but US trade embargo will have not much at all to do with Cuba. It is all about US tourist going to Cuba (legalising Cannabis will promote that faster than anything else) and some Cuban products going to the US. Why the hell would Cuba import anything from the US when the US imports it all from China. Let's be honest Cuba just wants US dollars (for as long as they last) to buy stuff from Russia and China.

        • Excuse but US trade embargo will have not much at all to do with Cuba. It is all about US tourist going to Cuba (legalising Cannabis will promote that faster than anything else) and some Cuban products going to the US. Why the hell would Cuba import anything from the US when the US imports it all from China. Let's be honest Cuba just wants US dollars (for as long as they last) to buy stuff from Russia and China.

          Let's be honest, US has only brought Cuba back in to the peace because of the current geo-political situation.

          • by lpress ( 707742 )

            Let's be honest, US has only brought Cuba back in to the peace because of the current geo-political situation.

            I disagree that it is the only reason, but think that fear of the growing influence of China in Cuba and Latin America is a motivating factor. (The State Department denies this by the way).

          • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

            That's a laugh the US was finding itself isolated in it's own local sphere. South America et al wanted Cuba treated properly and were massing against the US diplomatically. See those sanction against Russia from the US and Europe, South America loved them and the Russian government will keep them going after Europe drops them and long after the US drops them. US quite simply did not have a choice, to much warmongering and not enough diplomacy plus being recognised for putting Comical Ali to shame when it c

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Excuse but US trade embargo will have not much at all to do with Cuba. It is all about US tourist going to Cuba (legalising Cannabis will promote that faster than anything else) and some Cuban products going to the US. Why the hell would Cuba import anything from the US when the US imports it all from China. Let's be honest Cuba just wants US dollars (for as long as they last) to buy stuff from Russia and China.

          This is the first I've heard about Cuba and legal weed. Are they even considering that?

          That said, I can't really see that as a huge tourist draw. I can get all the pot I want to right here in the US. I love ganja - smoking some right now as a matter of fact, but I'm not about to go to Cuba to get it. Seriously, if you have to go to Cuba to get pot you're just not trying. If you can't find it in your own backyard, go to California or Colorado or even farking British Columbia. If you want to travel t

      • This is true. Through price supports (there goes cheap) and heavy regulation (so much for easy) some people will make a tidy sum. Indeed abundant opportunities await.

      • Milk is profitable still. So are eggs. Trust me, everything that matters will remain fairly profitable. Governments will guarantee it.

        Not only do I disagree, governments are specifically involved to manipulate the markets for milk and eggs and make small-players unable to compete. Not only does profit not need to matter anymore, neither does money, nor governments. Economics, government regulation, and even profits aren't changing their tunes fast enough to keep up with technology today. It will outpace and outstrip them all for usefulness. 5 Years is my estimate.

    • That will be controlled by the market unless the government subsidies overwhelm it.

      If I supply so much of X that it exceeds demand and drives the market price below the production cost of X... then that will stop investment in supply and probably cause supply to contract.

      Supply will contract until such time as the demand price increases to some number above the production cost.

      That's just fundamental economics. You can't both over supply a market AND have that over supply continue indefinitely without subsi

      • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Saturday August 15, 2015 @02:59AM (#50321141)

        At any price the world can only produce so many hand made sports cars built in some Italian factory. There's a limit. And the high ticket price of such things is largely a rationing system.

        True but meaningless. The world can produce enough cars for everyone. It can even produce enough sport cars for everyone. The attributes "hand made" and "built in some Italian factory" are slapped on to turn an otherwise ordinary product into a status symbol, who's defining feature is exclusiveness. It has no consequences for people who simply want to get from point A to point B fast and thus need a (fast) car.

        In other words, "hand made sports cars built in some Italian factory" are primarily the modern equivalent of Imperial Purple of ancient Rome: they advertize their owner's social position. They simply happen to have some utility as cars as well.

        What this all means is that the economics of hand made sports cars have nothing to do with economics of communications. Everyone can't be richer than everyone else, but even the poorest person in a country could be well wealthy enough to have a 100 Mbit Internet connection on their cellphone. And in fact the wealthier they are, the more likely they are to participate in the economy, politics, culture etc. in a productive manner; for example this discussion is more likely to produce good ideas and expose bad ones as such than if all of us sat on a carboard box somewhere and tried to forget our growling stomachs.

        Point is that Cuba can't sustainably provide more communication to the people than the people either want or can pay for.

        It can, however, change the relative costs of various options to steer development away from local optimum towards true optimum, or even infinity. "Cost" here can involve either money, punishments for undesirable behaviour, or extending willpower to resist indoctrination. Theoretically, this can lead to better outcome due to planning ahead of time and thus having better coordination; in practice, this planning needs to be done by someone, and that someone is chosen from candidates filtered and heavily targeted by various interest's propaganda, leading to the reality-disconnected insanity we see in politicians and other powerful people all the time.

        Luckily, better communications also make untrue indoctrination harder to maintain. There's a reason why, for example, religious fundamentalists oppose - either via terror like in Afghanistan or via sabotage like in the US - education: it might not destroy the student's faith in God, but sure does destroy the illusion that the group's dogma is God's will. It's why censorship is nearly synonymous with tyranny, and why everyone who's nation is building national firewalls or other such infrastructure can be certain there's nasty surprises in store. If you've done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide, after all.

        • ... You're claiming that there are billions of sports cars available for sale right now?

          Here you might say "COULD be made"... not really. The economic system would collapse if it even tried to do that.

          As to status symbols... who said the product had to make sense? If people want cod pieces hand made by a famous artist then that's what they want. The artist is in scare supply by definition thus giving the status symbol value.

          But if you'd prefer something less silly we can talk about jet engines. Can we produ

          • ... You're claiming that there are billions of sports cars available for sale right now?

            No. Like with all design decisions, "sports" implies tradeoffs in other areas which are more valuable to most people. Furthermore, all people don't want a new car right now, and it makes sense to delay production as long as possible since technology keeps developing.

            Or did you perhaps confuse "everyone can have a car" with "everyone can have an infinite number of cars"?

            As to status symbols... who said the product had to

            • 1. do not conflate "nice sports car" with "fucking anything with four wheels and some kind of motor".

              When I say that there are resource limitations that mean we cannot... CANNOT build 5 billion sports cars. I am not saying "any kind of conveyance what so ever".

              I'm not quibbling over the point with you. The issue is that because of infrastructure, labor, and resource limitations there are finite limits to how much of any thing that can be produced at any given time. If you wanted 5 billion sports cars in 1 y

              • As to your citation of hobby jet engines to presume to contradict my obvious point... this is the point in the discussion where I spit in your face. *Spit* Are you serious?

                Thus far you've moved the issue under discussion from cellphones to sports cars to jet engines. Frankly, it seems like you're trying to find something resource-intensive enough to manufacture that each person can't have their own in hopes of then (mis)applying the conclusions back to the cell phones. But I tried to give you the benefit o

                • As to Detroit being a communist state, so you're saying you don't associate socialism with communism?

                  Because Marx did.

                  • As to Detroit being a communist state, so you're saying you don't associate socialism with communism?

                    I do. I simply don't see what Detroit has to do with either. Except, perhaps, as a cautionary tale about the results of leaving your community's fortunes up to the whims of the markets and (in)competence of corporations, but I doubt you were going for that.

                    Because Marx did.

                    While that has nothing to do with Detroit, it does bring up another weakness of past revolutions: dogmatism. It's understandable - if y

                    • You're blaming the fall of Detroit on the corps? The corps were the ones that made Detroit rich in the first place. And the fall of Detroit doesn't correspond with anything the corps did. It corresponds rather with the great cities program which Detroit was the center piece of... and you basically nuked the city.

                      You took the richest city in the country and destroyed it.

                      As to your evasions... keep wriggling on the spit. It amuses me.

                    • You're blaming the fall of Detroit on the corps?

                      You are blaming the "fall of Detroit" on communism. I pointed out that Detroit is an American town most renowed for its association with American corporations, making your assertion absurd.

                      But no, I'm not blaming Detroit on the corps. The corps have no more choice than any other actor caught in the system. They move manufacturing where it's cheapest or they go bankrupt. Or both, in the case of American auto industry, but incompetence is not a moral failure.

                    • capitalism and detroit... it had problems when the American socialists used it as a guinea pig to test their urban planning project on. The 'great cities' program which was an expansion of the great society program. Neither of which were great and both of which fucked over everything they touched.

                      Capitalism made the city rich and prosperous... socialism destroyed it.

                      I like that you cite "american" as if there aren't american socialists or communists. We've had them since always.

                      Are you familiar with Jamesto

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      you think the 5g will be free?

      I don't understand though why the OP seems to think that 5g cellphones wouldn't be cellphones or 5g cells wouldn't be cells, or why 3g phones aren't phones or some shit like that.

      they might skip GSM but uh gsm is 20 years old technlogy. that's like asking in 2005 if some countries will skip straight from not having nmt to having gsm+3g base stations.

      will they skip cellphones to cellphones? sure..

      • There will never be (until the "Revolution" collapses and the Castros have attained room temperature) any wireless service that isn't aimed squarely at the tourist market. No Cuban who isn't a government agent will ever use it.

      • The vibe I got from the writeup was this: 5 years out, it could be feasible to have a country-wide wifi network that would handle data voice.
        Of course I don't think that's actually the case, due to range issues among other things, unless you are looking at only providing service to heavily urbanized areas.
      • There may be a bit of residual market for 3G (or less likely, GSM), but they'd be much better off doing 4G than waiting five years for some magic 5G, or expecting enough Wifi and internet to be available to replace the cellular-standards market. US carriers are retiring 3G as fast as they can, going to LTE, because they get more efficient use of the bandwidth, as well as faster data and the possibility of VoLTE. The real issue is partly the rate at which cheap phones from China are adopting 4G, plus the f

        • by lpress ( 707742 )
          My concern with LTE is that Cuba is a poor country and, in order to install ubiquitous LTE, they would need a lot of foreign investment in return for control and profits to the investor. I am not a big fan of, say, Verizon or Orange. By 2020, the Cuban economy will be in better shape, there will be newer technology and the US embargo will probably be history. Can they get by with expanded WiFi for mobile access and their current 2G phone system until then? Also, it is not clear that with the current governm
          • My guess is that (even with everything virtualizing) 5G in 2020 will be at least as expensive as 4G now, probably still much earlier in the development and cost-reduction curve, and limping along with an old system will be more of a drag on their economy than upgrading. Also, a big part of the cost of any of those systems has been spectrum, which is a problem when a US or EU telcos have to be the highest bidder in a government auction that's trying to maximize revenue; a government-run telco in Cuba doesn'

    • by bjwest ( 14070 )

      You make communications too cheap and easy, and there won't be any profit in it...

      Why does everything need to produce profit? Why is breaking even not an acceptable goal?

  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Friday August 14, 2015 @10:18PM (#50320549)

    I've seen a third world country go from pots lines to buried fiber, superior internet speed to most USA major cities, ubiquitous 3.75G mobile internet....in less than 10 years. And Cuba is smaller and less populous.

    I'll wager by 2025 most Cubans traveling to USA will be complaining about the shit internet and shit cellular here.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      Countries have played technological leap-frog for some time. The United States was ahead of many European nations until their rebuilding after WWII made it necessary to put in new equipment, equipment that was arguably better than what the United States didn't have to replace in the first place.

      As to Cuba and cell phones, it all depends on how much rural coverage they want and how much potential disruption in urban areas they want in order to put in ubiquitous urban networks. Personally, if they're goi
    • Depends on if the follow China's lead and allow foreigners to own capital. You know Capitalism?

    • I'll wager by 2025 most Cubans traveling to USA will be complaining about the shit internet and shit cellular here.

      LOL! How much are you willing to wager? I would like to point out that Cuba's regime clamps down hard on communications technologies. They fear rebellion because they are tyrants.

    • What makes you think that Cuba's government is going to allow its citizens to leave the country? They can't leave, anyone who does is labeled a defector. It just happened a few days ago, some Cuban athletes turned up missing at headcount.
    • I've seen a third world country go from pots lines to buried fiber, superior internet speed to most USA major cities, ubiquitous 3.75G mobile internet....in less than 10 years. And Cuba is smaller and less populous.

      I'll wager by 2025 most Cubans traveling to USA will be complaining about the shit internet and shit cellular here.

      I'm not a telecommunications industry insider so I have never quite understood why we are pissing about (pardon my French) with 3, 4 and 5G when we could have switched to long range WiFi a decade ago. If we can miniaturize a radio transmitter/receiver to the point where it will fit into a mobile phone and still provide high speed radio communications with a cell tower up to 35km away we can design a WiFi module that will fit into a laptop or tablet and that can communicate with a distant radio tower or a lo

    • There remain today only three countries with Soviet style planned economies: North Korea, Laos, and Cuba. The GDP per capita in Cuba is 6k usd, and they are one of the most corrupt nations in the world. Until they move towards capitalism and crack down on the corruption they will continue to be impoverished and there will continue to be very little resources to spend on high speed internet.
  • That's why T-Mobile only has 2g service here they are waiting for the 5g equipment to become available.

    • by segin ( 883667 )
      Actually... that's not correct... in the least... T-Mobile is actively deploying LTE across their entire 2G footprint, and are skipping 3G in the process. 2G cell sites are going to 2G/LTE but not 3G. If it's still justifiable after that's all done, then they might do a second pass to throw up 3G as well. By then, though, I expect them to be well into going into "4.5G" - whatever enhancements to LTE that are still-to-come whilst we wait for "5G" - assuming 5G will involve a revolutionary air interface (5G m
  • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Friday August 14, 2015 @10:26PM (#50320573) Journal

    I don't have a phone line for my home. Instead, I have a VOIP MagicJack that cost me about $20/year for unlimited calls [magicjack.com]. It is wired in place of my old phone line in my home, the old land line phones work the same way as always.

    At my business, we replaced all telephone equipment with VOIP equipment. Audio quality is better than cellular, not quite as good as the old land line, but is plenty good enough, and we can have representatives take calls anywhere over wifi or any other Internet connection.

    Over 90% of my use of my cell "phone" is for Internet-related activity, and the phone is really just one of many apps on the phone consuming data.

    The idea of a "phone" is already obsolete. Why are we doing this, again?

    • by Nutria ( 679911 )

      Drive beyond the suburbs and disabuse yourself of the notion that everyone lives within range of a Wi-Fi station.

      • by mcrbids ( 148650 )

        We have an office in a small, very remote town. Until recently, we got 100 Mb Internet though a WISP by installing a microwave tower. Recently, the local power company installed fiber optic Internet, so now we have 100 Mb Internet at the same price, without packet loss!

        Meanwhile, in our home town, Comcast recently announced support for 2 Gbit Internet for $350/month, and the entire area is blanketed with 4G LTE through ATT/Verizon/TMo.

        I climbed a remote mountain. I facebooked the pix I took at the peak befo

        • by Nutria ( 679911 )

          We have an office in a small, very remote town.

          And the people who live 8-10 miles outside of town?

          the entire area is blanketed with 4G LTE through ATT/Verizon/TMo.

          IOW, cell networks.

          I climbed a remote mountain.

          Wi-Fi access on top of the remote mountain?

          Or was a cell tower erected?

          • I live 25 miles from a very small town (population 50) and have DSL. No water or electricity.
            • by Nutria ( 679911 )

              I live 25 miles from a very small town (population 50) and have DSL.

              Congratulations. My mother lives 8 miles from a modest sized town (population 718) and does *not* have DSL availability.

            • I call bullshit.

              Your leaving a large amount of information out of your statement or you are flat out lying.

              The cable run alone for a 25 mile patch is millions of dollars just to put it in the ground, not even the equipment required to make it work.

              You're lying about the scenario you are in.

        • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

          Whats the population there for comparison?

          Sallisaw, ok has fiber ranging to 50/50mb for $157/mo.
          Thats with a population of about 8,600.

          Nothing but a wisp offering 10mb max for those outside city limits $100/mo.

          Unless you want to consider dialup/sat or lte in which case we are covered by verizon, att and sprint.

          But dialup is slow and sat's high latency makes secured websites slow and lte's high cost per GB highly limits what most people can or will do with it. So I don't like to consider them vaild options f

    • Agreed. The faster we move to all telecommunications being treated as raw data the better. Of course the old telecom giants hate this idea and are fighting it tooth and nail but it's inevitable. Give it a few years and there will be no more phone lines, no more "talk minutes", no more SMS. Just plain old data, and everything else will exist on top of that. Developing countries like Cuba have a chance to get ahead of the game without the inertia of decades of shitty business practices by the telcos.

    • by lpress ( 707742 )
      That is true for the US and a lot of other places, but Cuba has very little IP connectivity today so their 2G phones are still useful. In my post, I was suggesting that in perhaps five years they would be able to ditch their 2G phones and not bother with obsolete phones beyond that. Check the graph in my post for confirmation of your contention that "phones" are obsolete.
  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Friday August 14, 2015 @11:58PM (#50320835) Journal

    Avoid the costs of infrastructure build out of obosolete tech and associated main. cost. This is actually an advantage developing countries have, the ability to jump right to leading edge tech without the baggage of older tech hanging around.

  • The reason Cuba is poor is because they are communist. Without changing that they will remain poor. Making US tourism slightly easier won't have a huge effect. It's not like they were hurting because they couldn't access US markets. There are plenty of other markets they could access. Now if they allow private ownership of capital by US companies that will have a much larger effect.

    • But look at Venezuela. They have a socialist government now and everything is just peachy.

      So long as you don't want jobs. Or food. Or toilet paper.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The reason Cuba is poor is because they are communist.

      Heh heh - as opposed to Haiti and Jamaica which are poor because they're capitalist.

      That's not to say that governments don't matter. But we can play No True Scotsman hot potato with the various poor countries in the world until we're blue in the face without ever resolving anything. You can claim that all the poor countries that are capitalist aren't really capitalist. And I can claim that all the poor countries that are communist aren't really communist. And then you can claim that the successful socialist

      • There are poor capitalist countries. There are rich capitalist countries. There are poor communist countries.

        There are no rich communist countries.

        What matters is whether the government is focused on getting out of the lives of ordinary people.

        • There are poor capitalist countries. There are rich capitalist countries. There are poor communist countries.

          There are no rich communist countries.

          What matters is whether the government is focused on getting out of the lives of ordinary people.

          You need to distinguish between two kinds of government involvement. There's free market vs. centrally planned economy. Then there's the social policy axis. For example, Nordic countries are free-market and socialist, so we don't fall neatly into the simple capitalist vs. communist dichotomy. We're not filthy rich, but you might say we're pretty well off.

          • We need to define our terms carefully, socialism is very specifically defined as the public ownership off the means of production. So no private ownership over production. Communism is no private ownership of anything. Capitalism is the private ownership of all property with no difference between consumer and producer goods.

            You are righ that then we add in all sorts of government. The Nordic countries are very Capitalist. But they also have a relatively large Welfare programs. These are paid for by taxes. T

            • Communism is no private ownership of anything.

              Then Cuba is not communist. Those in power own things. And by extension, there has never been a communist society larger than a village.

      • What you wrote is closest to the actual reality. As such, lifting the U.S. embargo isn't going to make them a free country. They will remain poor and ... incommunicado... so long as they dictatorship exists. If Castro et al had wanted cell phones and internet, they could have had it right along with the rest of the world, but that would likely result in the end of Castro et al.

        Our embargo has not, in any way, prevented them from doing that. It isn't like the U.S. is the sole source of that technolo
    • What is the difference between Cuba's "Communism" and Scandinavian "socialism?" What is the difference in these two places' qualities of life? "Markets" are not the whole story here. Cuba is poor because its "leadership" has been abusing its people for decades. Their economic system has to do with that only tangentially.

  • I think real question is if Cubans can skip the wifi and go straight to 4G. City wifi is the worst thing that could happen to them, just give few bucks a month 4G service and nobody misses wifi. Cellular network is better designed to handle handovers, longer range, more users, and easier maintenance. With the population they have cellular data should be the way to go.

    For average U.S. person wifi feels better because you get local service (Starbucks) that serves limited number of customers well. The wifi ser

    • For average U.S. person wifi feels better because you get local service (Starbucks) that serves limited number of customers well.

      And for the average US person, wifi feels better because they don't have to pay a ridiculous amount per gigabyte if they go over the limit of their data plan because they've watched too many videos.

      Maybe the use cases would be different in Cuba, or their government would ensure that such caps wouldn't be an issue. But otherwise, wifi does have significant advantages such that wifi and 4G complement each other.

  • They're not even skipping copper wires for land service and going straight to fiber.

    They aren't going to skip ahead on cell service.

  • If Cuba does what China did, put engineers in charge of making and implementing policy instead of lawyers, they will quickly move ahead with advanced cell technology. The people will use it if its available and priced fairly.
  • Hell, they were just allow toaster ovens a few years ago. You're acting like the people of Cuba have a choice. They don't. They still have a very oppressive communist government. Obama's actions have changed nothing for the Cuban people yet.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I fucking hate these low information posts which make an outlandish claim without any support.

      I actually didn't believe it, so naturally I looked into it and there is some truth behind your claim but toaster ovens were never outlawed.

      What did happen was that the import of certain appliances was banned and it apparently wasn't out of some evil desire to prevent Cubans from making toast either.

      I presume this is what you're babbling about: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/21/cuba-lifts-import-ban-app

  • "Phone" network? Modern phone networks are entirely data that yes, happens to carry voice. The reason they're used is some rather involved compensation for the Doppler effect and tower-to-tower handoff as travel happens. Could they use Wifi? Uh, I guess, but I hope you enjoy a severely crowded spectrum and expect to simply stand when making a call.
  • A sudden solar generated EMP will probably wipe out everything, so why not adopt a fail safe technology [wikipedia.org] ?!?

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