In 1998, I was trying to improve the atrocious quality of service offered by Sri Lanka Telecom. My efforts included persuasion: I brought in a quality advocate from BC Tel, a Canadian telecom operator, and organized a public lecture. There, I recall responding to the main criticism made of my efforts by SLT engineers that I was imposing unrealistic American standards of quality on Sri Lanka. I said that no one obtains a phone to keep in the house as an ornamental object; that they went to all the trouble of obtaining a phone in order to talk to people and for that, they needed dialtone. You can imagine my surprise when I see a New York Times writer saying that fixed phones in America are becoming ornamental objects.
I have been invited to speak at an event in Dhaka on March 10th intended to improve the understanding of the complexities of telecom policy and regulation by Bangladeshi journalists. I am here responding to a question whether speaking at events such as this organized by operators could create a negative perception about LIRNEasia. Is it better to have journalists who understand the technical aspects of the industry and the practice of regulation, than not? I think the answer is clearly yes. Does this fall within LIRNEasia’s mission, yes.
It is reported that the one million or so customers of Sri Lanka Telecom who have wireline connections can now look forward to paying the same amount in taxes as the ten million or so customers (mobile and fixed) who connect wirelessly (across GSM and CDMA platforms). We have opposed telecom specific taxes; but even more, we have opposed discrimination between different technologies. It takes some time for the people in Treasury to get it, but at least they got it after more than a year. If they got it earlier, there would have been no need to change the description in the phone bills from mobile subscriber levy to telephone subscriber levy. Hopefully this will also end the anomaly of taxing the same broadband service differently.
In a fullpage advertisement that will be published in the Sunday papers on October 5th, Tigo, Sri Lanka’s “third” mobile operator (not that we place that much stock in market share calculations based on numbers of active SIMs), will effectively end the unloved receiving-party-pays regime in Sri Lanka. Its tariff scheme is about the simplest I have seen in a long time: all incoming calls free; offnet outgoing 10 LKR cents a second (roughly USD 0.001); onnet outgoing 5 LKR cents a second (roughly USD 0.0005). No time periods.
Dialog Telekom and Sri Lanka Telecom won the first and second places respectively among the Business Today’s Sri Lanka Top Ten business firms. President Mahinda Rajapaksa presented the awards at a function organized by the Business Today Magazine. The recipients were Dr. Hans Wijesooriya of Dialog Telekom, Leisha De Silva of Sri Lanka Telecom, Harry Jayewardene of Distilleries and Aitken Spence, Sumithra Gunasekara of John Keells, Rajendra Thyagaraja of Hatton National Bank, Ravi Dias of Commercial Bank, Eran Wickremerathne of NDB Bank, Nustanfer Ali Khan of Ceylon Tobacco and Thila De Soysa of Bukit Darah. Source: Colombopage
We could still do better; But more taxes could kill the industry The Nation Economist, Sunday 26 August 2007 | See Print version I have to say that JHU does not know economics. What is the rationale behind taxing the only sector that is growing? The industry is giving government enormous amount of revenue. Twenty percent of every mobile rupee goes to the government. If you squeeze the goose for more eggs the goose will ultimately die.
Daily News – Friday, 3 August 2007 In a press conference held yesterday to announce South Asia’s first Broadband Communications Congress and Expo (SABCCE) General Manager/ Head of Consumer Market Development Division of Sri Lanka Telecom SLT M.Z Saleem said CDMA Broadband technology will be introduced to the local market by SLT soon. Most of the service providers in the local telecommunication industry are in the process of introducing this technology to the market. However the equipment needs higher investments for introducing this technology, he said. ‘Broadband communications are very cost effective.
LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE – LBO Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) said Tuesday it has received BOI status from the Board of Investment that would enable it to import and buy locally project-related items free of customs duty. Powered by ScribeFire.
Free media Movement – Sri Lanka Press Release 30 January 2007 Internet facilities and 8,000 telephones cut off in Jaffna Peninsula The Free Media Movement (FMM) is deeply disturbed to learn that basic communications facilities to the Jaffna Peninsula have been blocked from 28th January 2007. Internet facilities and around 8,000 landline telephones of Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) are dysfunctional to date. SLT, jointly owned by the Sri Lankan Government and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corporation (NTT) of Japan, is the sole Internet provider in Jaffna Peninsula with a population of around 600,000 according to official statistics. The FMM was told that there is no official decision by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority to block communications in this manner in the Peninsula. However, a number of citizens in Jaffna and journalists confirm that there is no Internet access in Jaffna for the past 3 three days, when contacted through mobile phones.
A citizen journalist brings good news. But there is a question mark is regarding the comment on bills. Most of the phones in Jaffna are mobile and most of the mobiles are prepaid. So the line re bills must refer to Sri Lanka Telecom. Clarifications most welcome.
Several weeks ago we speculated on why the Maldives, with its tiny population, needed two undersea cables. The answer is that the first cable is a collaboration between the new entrant Wataniya and India’s disruptive competitor, Reliance (through its FLAG unit). This created enormous pressure on the complacent incumbent Dhiraagu, the result being the cable to Colombo. LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE – LBO A new fibre optic undersea cable that connects Maldives to Sri Lanka will bring down international call charges from the Indian Ocean coral atoll, officials said Tuesday.Until the cable was commissioned this month, bilateral traffic of 600,000 minutes per month was routed via more expensive satellite links.
Maldives is a country with a population of around 300,000, around 32,000 fixed phones and around 232,000 mobiles [this has to level off, because pretty much the entire population is now using mobiles]. It has a lot of high-end hotel rooms, but the USP of the tourist industry there is not business travel, it is utter and complete relaxation. And relaxed people are not known to generate lots of data and voice traffic. All this is relevant to the question of what will go through the two cables landing in Maldives by 2007. Reliance/FLAG is already live, I believe.
From Lanka Business Online Streaming Fast 28 September 2006 19:00:19 Sri Lanka Telecom links up with India’s BSNL to offer wider choice September 28 2006 (LBO) – India’s Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited Thursday officially kicked off a 1.8 billion rupee undersea cable unit with Sri Lanka Telecom, which will bring down call rates between South Asian countries. The optical fibre cable, which run between Mt Lavinia (Sri Lanka) and Tuticorin in India, will enable SLT customers to enjoy high speed broadband services such as audio and video streaming. Read full article on LBO
LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE – LBO The above column presents evidence to the effect that: “Given enough time and competition, reformed infrastructure does reduce disparities among regions. The reforms that started to have effect in the mid 1990s, with the licensing of the fourth mobile operator and the two fixed entrants in 1995-96, the partial privatization and managerial reform of Sri Lanka Telecom in 1997, and improvements in regulation starting from 1998, did result in allowing the rural people of this country greater access to telecom services. Of course, it must be noted that the dazzling growth in the Northern Province (Jaffna and Vavuniya districts) was only made possible by the cease fire agreement of 2002, the lifting of the nonsensical ban on mobile telephony in conflict areas, and the courageous decision by Dialog Telekom to provide service in that region within three weeks of the signing of the CFA.”
From LankaBusinessOnline Extended Family 05 June 2006 14:23:29 Sri Lanka opens the door for fifth mobile phone operator June 5, 2006 (LBO) – Sri Lanka plans to expand its mobile phone market to five players, in a bid to bring down costs of telephony, the telecom regulator said Monday. Sri Lanka’s mobile market had grown 53.5 percent to 3.34 million customers as at end 2005, according to TRC figures. The island’s cellular penetration is expected to increase to 20.
The LBO story states: Sri Lanka’s two private wireless local loop telecom operators have been called up to pay around Rs. 400 million as duties for importing handsets, industry officials said. Last month, the island’s Board of Investment (BOI) slapped a 33 percent import duty on Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) handsets with immediate effect. CDMA is a low cost cellular technology that has been effectively used world over to provide cheaper connectivity to rural homes. Though the technology is similar to mobile phones, the handsets are similar to a bulky fixed line unit.