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Sri Lanka: SLT has 10,000 km of fiber in its network now; adding 5,000 km next year

15,000 km of fiber is pretty significant for a country the size of Sri Lanka. But this is exactly what the CEO is promising (and 10,000 is already in the ground). The beauty is that the whole thing has been done on a commercial basis with no subsidies, aid or whatever (though one could argue that the slowly disbursed universal service money generated by incoming and outgoing international calls could have contributed).

In 2002-04, I was involved in planning a World Bank financed USD 20m subsidy scheme intended to accelerate the build out of fiber to cover the entire country (at that time we only had two rings, the larger connecting the Central Province to Colombo, and the smaller a metro ring around Colombo). Due to multiple factors, this component of the e Sri Lanka initiative never got implemented. The reforms of that period also created the Vishva Grama Fund (or universal service fund) mentioned above.

Since then, there have been multiple attempts to design subsidies for expanding the backbone network, but no action on the most important thing which is opening up this infrastructure to other operators on cost-oriented and non-discriminatory terms. It appears that World Bank resources would be better spent on improving the performance of the regulatory agency than on seeking to duplicate what market forces are doing, according to the Sunday Times:

He disclosed that the SLT will extend its high speed and ultra reliable Optical Fiber cable network by 10,000 km by the end of this year and another 5,000 km next year, covering the entire island including the North and East.

Fixed line operators all over the world have been pushed to NGN to survive. Advantages of the NGN are that networks become simple, it reduces locations and there are lot of cost savings. It unloads the value and the capacity of the network infrastructure. Since finding capital expenditure for the convergence is an issue, the company should invest in NGN, as it will be a profitable investment, he added. With this transformation programme, the company expects to see a noticeable change throughout the organization – including the organization culture, attitudes and perceptions of employees as well as the work environment.

The optical fibre cable system connecting the Jaffna peninsula to the south of the country via the A9 main route has been completed. As part of its continuing network investment to support the growing demand for communication services, SLTD initiated, after the end of the conflict, this fibre optic cable project to connect Mannar, Vavuniya, Trincomalee and Jaffna along the A9 highway. In addition new telephone exchanges at Mankulam and Mulaitivu, located in the northern part of Sri Lanka, will enhance basic communication facilities and broadband coverage for customers in the areas, he said. These new telephone exchanges are part of SLT’s ongoing effort to drive innovation and extend its broadband network throughout the island.

Mr. Young noted that SLT, the only wire-line broadband service provider in Sri Lanka, will continue to focus on its broadband strategy of driving and capturing growth in this important sector, which positions the Group well to deliver additional information and entertainment services. SLT’s ADSL customer base will continue to expand counting on growth from old technology for the time being till the network will be cautiously overhauled, he said.

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