CubaNews / December 1995
By Larry Luxner
WASHINGTON -- A top MCI official says his company wants to build a $25 million fiberoptic cable between Florida and Cuba, in consortium with AT&T, Sprint and other U.S. long-distance carriers.
"We've spoken to the Cubans a number of times about our willingness to participate in a consortium to run to run a cable into Cuba," said Larry Codacovi, MCI's vice-president of international services, though no FCC permission has been sought yet. Codacovi added that MCI opposes a similar proposal by WilTel International of Tulsa, Okla., because that cable would be privately run, and "we felt it should be a consortium."
At the moment, said Codacovi, MCI has between 200 and 300 circuits to Cuba, and roughly 36% of total long-distance traffic between the two countries. That's second only to AT&T's 42%, with Sprint and four other carriers sharing the remaining 22% of the pie. Those numbers couldn't be confirmed, since none of the other carriers would comment on revenues or market share. Total traffic, says Codacovi, amounts to between 6 and 7 million minutes a month -- or 80 million minutes a year -- which translates into roughly $100 million in 1995 revenues (shared evenly by the United States and Cuba).
"That's a tremendous increase compared to where it was a year ago," he said. "People unable to get calls through now can pick up the phone and get a dial tone, and have a good chance of connecting on the first try." The call completion rate, he added, has increased from 13% a year ago to "well over 20%" today.
"Right now, it's all residential lines, very little business. That's going to grow as more lines are installed in Cuba and the Mexicans get phones into as many homes and offices as they can. There are a lot of people waiting on the sidelines, and if the embargo is ever lifted, there will be a huge surge in traffic. Even without the embargo lifted, traffic will grow 15-20% a year, peaking five years from now."
Codacovi adds: "It's a shame the Mexicans and the Italians have managed to place themselves in Cuba, with Americans just 90 miles offshore. It's unfortunate."