Cuba in new Verizon deal for direct calls with US

Verizon has proved eager to expand its reach into digital advertising, even though the Yahoo merger faced early setbacks due to data breaches (AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards)

Havana (AFP) - A week before US President Barack Obama visits Cuba, its state telecom monopoly ETECSA announced Monday a deal with Verizon Partner Solutions to expand direct calls.

"Once implementation and testing work are completed, this initially will allow phone service" between the neighbors, ETECSA said.

It is no small detail, since there are 11 million people in Cuba and almost two million Cubans in the United States.

For five decades of the Cold War, calls between the neighbors actually had to pass through a third country due to US sanctions on the Americas' only Communist country.

At the moment, ETECSA has had one US partner, IDT Domestic Telcom, for voice service, since 2015.

Obama has reopened diplomatic ties with Havana, but has not been able to convince the Republican-controlled Congress to end the economic embargo in place since the 1960s.

In November, ETECSA signed another deal with Sprint allowing calls between the two countries, and roaming in Cuba for those based in the United States.