International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré was guest of honour at a ceremony in Santiago de Cuba on 9 February marking the arrival of a new undersea fibre optic cable that will dramatically increase Cuba's connectivity with the outside world.
With a 640-gigabyte capacity and a lifespan of 25 years, the ALBA-1 cable will provide a near 3,000-fold increase in Cuba's voice, data and video transmission speeds.
Costing around US$70 million, the cable runs 1,630 kilometres from the Venezuelan port of La Guaira to the eastern Cuban town of Siboney. A second segment will stretch 230 kilometres from Cuba to Ocho Rios in Jamaica.
Speaking from Siboney beach, where the cable was brought ashore after a 19-day journey on cable laying vessel the Ile de Batz, Dr Touré hailed a new era in Cuban connectivity. "This propels Cuba into the high-speed era, taking connectivity from a mere 380 megabits per second to true ultra-fast broadband."
In the first instance, the new cable will enable state enterprises to work more efficiently, allowing different departments to communicate more effectively and help them deliver improved services to the Cuban population. It will massively speed up connection speeds in the information technology clubs, post offices and research centres where most computers are currently located.
Cuban officials say the country's priority will be to build more public telecentres and improve Internet access at schools, hospitals and scientific institutions.
A number of high-ranking Cuban and international officials attending the bi-annual Informatica conference were also present at the ceremony, including Cuban Vice President Ramiro Valdes.