Cuban citizens will be able to access the internet on their mobile phones from Thursday, Reuters quoted state-run telecommunications company Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba SA (ETECSA) as saying on Tuesday.

Cubans until now have had access only to state-run email accounts on their phones, AP reported, and the island has one of the lowest rates of internet usage in the world. Until 2013, internet was mostly available to the general public only at tourist hotels. The government permitted home internet usage in 2017, when it had also introduced cybercafes and outdoor WiFi hotspots.

ETECSA Vice President Tania Velázquez said the company would roll out the service over several days in a bid to avoid network congestion. The company announced a range of packages valid for a month – from 600 MB costing $7, or around Rs 500, to 4 GB for $30, or over Rs 2,100. Accessing state-run applications and websites like Ecured, a Cuban Wikipedia, could be cheaper for citizens, added Velázquez.

The cost could be prohibitive for many of the country’s 11.2 million citizens as the average state wage is around $30 per month. Havana resident Joaquin Montiel, 58, works as a salesman in a state-owned company and said he would be unable to afford the service on his wages of less than $20 per month, or around Rs 1,410.

“It was about time this became a possibility for Cubans too,” Montiel said. “But for some, like me, it’s still a remote one.”

Another resident, 38-year-old Guillermo Diaz said he would frequently use the WiFi hotspot in a park near him home for video chats with his family who emigrated to the United States. “It will be good to be able to connect to the web with greater comfort,” he said.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who succeeded Raul Castro in April, has supported greater internet connectivity, which would help improve the country’s economy.