Sale of mobile lines: a business on the rise in the informal market

Havana Cuba. — An increase in the sale of mobile lines through informal channels has been observed in Cuba in recent months. The phenomenon has become more visible since the Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA) limited the official sale of lines to one per person and established a cost in freely convertible currency (MLC) for the acquisition of the two additional lines allowed.

In December 2022, the state company warned about the shortage of mobile lines and made the decision to sell the first line for 1,000 Cuban pesos. However, the two additional lines are offered only on MLC, for the price of 35 each. At today’s exchange rate, that amount is equivalent to approximately 7,000 pesos.

What was initially presented as a temporary measure to deal with the lack of lines has generated a proliferation of the sale of mobile lines in the informal market.

The ETECSA help service points out that, “officially, the first line that a person buys has a price of 1,000 pesos, the other two have a cost of 35 MLC.”

Street vendors have taken this opportunity to fill the gap and meet the demand of those who want to get extra lines without having to pay in MLC.

However, the sale of mobile lines in the informal market, which is around 3,000 pesos, raises significant concerns in terms of security. For example, the phone number may have been involved in scams in the past or may have belonged to a person not on the Island, which precludes the option of transferring ownership to the new owner. On the other hand, the legitimate owner can cancel the number when he deems convenient, since, by law, the line belongs to him and the new illegal owner could not recover it.

Lastly, if the chip expires due to not recharging from transfermóvil or the purchase of balance directly from an ETECSA office, the line could not be recovered unless the help of the original owner is requested. The same would happen if the chip is lost or broken.

Jose Perez, an Etecsa user, owns a line registered in the name of another person. Speaking to CubaNet, said: “I always buy the balance on the street (transfer from phone to phone) and I thought that it would increase the expiration time of the line, but it is not like that. Recently my line expired and I don’t even know who owns it.”

“I lost money, the number and the line as such,” he added.

The alternative of looking for a street line in the black market is not the only way to avoid spending on MLC: many look for a friend who does not have a line in their name, they make the purchase and after 20 days they transfer to the person interested. However, there is also a shortage of line offers to first-time hirers.

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