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Mobile network in Cuba: how it works and other tips to improve your Internet

Havana Cuba. — The mobile network in Cuba has undergone numerous transformations over the last decade; however, the country still ranks among the worst in the world for connection speeds. This is indicated by several reports from professional companies such as OKLAspecialized in the analysis of the quality and speed of Internet traffic around the world.

At the end of 2018, the Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA) began to install 3G base stations with the aim of improving the quality of the service. Despite the fact that the company sold this technology as the definitive solution, its implementation not only failed in terms of Internet browsing, it also affected calls and the sending of SMS messages, since all these services ran on the same network.

After many complaints on social networks by users, the Cuban company ended up enabling 4G base stations in the 1800 Mhz and 1600 Mhz band. However, there are still many coverage dead zones, causing devices to automatically switch to more insecure and slower networks (3G and 2G).

On the other hand, ETECSA does not have VoLTE technology, which allows calls to be made over 4G. Today the phone under 4G coverage automatically switches to other networks if it receives or makes a call, the same happens with SMS or when USSD codes are sent. In many cases, the device gets stuck on the slower network.

Currently, 2G and 3G networks support voice, SMS and data services, while 4G technology remains limited to data only.

Improve speed. How to prevent the device from switching to slower networks?

In case of loss of 4G coverage, the first option that Cubans have to reconnect the mobile is to activate and deactivate the “airplane mode” option. This action, which appears on smartphones, sends the command to disconnect and search for the fastest network again. However, this does not guarantee an effective solution in all cases.

As a second option, there are the applications that offer the user more control over the network to which they want to connect. In the Cuban mobile application store apklis.cu, there are more than ten paid and free alternatives that offer the way to force the cell phone to only use 4G networks. In other words, these apps prevent the device from switching to 3G or 2G networks, allowing it to stay on the 4G network all the time.

Applications in apklis to force the device to connect to 4G networks (Screenshot/Courtesy of the author)

A team of CubaNet installed the “Forzar 4G” application, one of the payment options, for a price of ten pesos. To force the device to remain in the 4G network all the time, touch the “Force 4G/LTE” option and, later, in the menu that opens, under the heading “Set Preferred Network Type” (“set your type Preferred Network Option”), “LTE only” must be chosen.

Mobile network in Cuba: how it works and other tips to improve your Internet
“Force 4G” application menu (Photo by the author)

It should be noted that when this option is activated, it will be impossible to receive or make calls, or send SMS.

Mobile network in Cuba: how it works and other tips to improve your Internet
(Screenshot/Courtesy the author)

Ricardo Serrano, the territorial director of ETECSA in Santiago de Cuba, said in an interview with the local Channel TV Turquino that “4G is a network to access mobile data, to access the Internet, and people use it to talk, and to talk is 2G and 3G, you have to teach people.” The manager implied that the poor quality of the connection is due to the ignorance of the people and the lack of energy (blackouts).

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