Lack of local content drives users overseas and quality drops when international traffic increases – SLT

Posted on March 21, 2008  /  10 Comments

There were no press invitations/news releases for our event on March 18, as we were only releasing preliminary data. LBO was perhaps the only media interested. Their report was not hundred percent correct saying the SLT (2M/512k) speeds were slower compared to comparable Dialog Broadband package always (They showed more or less on par performances in Dec 2007) but sans that see them presenting a fairly accurate picture .


Sri Lanka’s internet access quality through broadband within the local boundary is above regional thresholds but sparse local content drives users to access overseas sites at slower speeds, researchers said. The local speeds within Sri Lanka is comparatively higher to what users experience when accessing international web sites, web pages or servers that are located overseas.

“We (Sri Lanka) have very poor local content, we always go international and majority of users access international content and [we have] less mirror sites,” Nimal Maddumage from Sri Lanka Telecom Broadband said.

The lesser local content and mirror sites drive users overseas and the quality of service drops when traffic is increased creating a bottleneck scenario at points where the local path connects to the World Wide Web. Mirror sites are internet copies of the same site located in different geographic areas allowing users to choose the site closest to them to lessen internet traffic and access time.

Presentation slides – Nimal Maddumage, Deputy General Manager (Broadband Networks) Sri Lanka Telecom

Presentation slides – Dinesh Arunatileka, General Manger Marketing, Dialog Broadband Services


  1. Key thing I have learnt from Nimal’s presentation is why it is so difficult for operators to deliver high bandwidth at affordable prices. International bandwidth does not come cheap. This is understandable. Hardly anybody in USA is interested in the little local content in SL based servers. So SL operators have to pay excessive amounts to connect us to international networks.

    Therefore it is logical for SL operators to limit bandwidth usage in their packages. Why provide packages with unlimited download especially when international bandwidth a scare resource? Does any other utility service provider do so? Water, electricity, petrol etc we always pay by quantity. Why not bandwidth?

    Not all users might be happy about this suggestion, but please think what you really want.

    Will you be happy have an ‘unlimited’ package from water board where your water flow depends on number of users sharing the same pipe, or would rather pay by quantity and have a reasonable flow?

  2. Thanks Chanuka for bringing this in to light!

    It is good to get an idea about total bandwidth available for Sri Lanka through SMW cables. To my knowledge (Correct me if I’m wrong) SLT has about 1.5 Gbps to serve more than 50000 broadband customers. Other operators have even less. If the operator promises to give 1Mbps bandwidth to all customers this would theoretically cover only 1500 broadband customers for total SLT base. Of course total base will not utilize bandwidth at the same time nor they would surf international sites, but this gives an idea of the exact bottle neck. More practical explanation would be that, if 1500 customers start peer-peer down loading from international sites at 1mbps rate they will block total usage allocation of the entire customers base.

    Most of the new technologies (advertised by operators) will cater for the access network only (i.e. Wimax, ADSL2) Hence at regulatory level good to address the bottleneck at the international backhaul links.

    I support pay by quantity method for international content until we sort out backhaul bandwidths. Local or ISP content we can go for flat rates E.g. SLT IPTV

  3. Thanks Heminda, for the comment and information.

    The first modem I have installed in 1994 was 960 bps (i.e. less than 1 kbps)

    My first Internet connection was 14.4 kbps. (dial up) I used that for about 2 years till I found Lanka bell WLL supports 28.8 kbps. Have to keep images off. Video was out of question.

    So our generation and anybody above understand the value of bandwidth. We don’t demand for 10 Mbps. All we ask for a decent speed. I am not 100% sure, but I guess something like 256 kbps will serve all my needs. 512 k might be too much. If any operator delivers that I am happy. I am ready to pay for the quantity.

    What is the use of 2-4 Mbps or above just in last mile? I do not think any user will look for a connection that gives 2-4 Mbps in last mile but drops to one tenth of that when accessing Gmail/YouTube.

    Agreed. Flat rates for local. Why burden teenagers who want to spend their day in chat rooms?

  4. I can understand if SLT needs to limit my bandwidth to ensure that nobody hogs the nation’s limited international bandwidth – but I would prefer it if they told me clearly how many people I was sharing my connection with, before I purchased the connection.

    I also think SLT should make it clearer in their marketing info that the speeds are not guaranteed – they advertise “512kbps download”, and that’s not what they supply. In my personal case, I initially bought the 2Mbps ADSL for Rs 7k per month, and about a year later found that a friend’s 512kbps was hardly any different in terms of speed, so I changed down to that connection, costing Rs 2.5k per month. To this day I can see no discernible difference between the two packages, except for perhaps in the wee hours of the morning.

    Chanuka says above that “we don’t demand 10Mbps” – why not? If that is what is advertised, and that is what we are paying for, surely we have a right to demand it? I don’t like paying for 512Kbps and not getting it – I don’t know about you but I feel cheated. Limiting my bandwidth so everyone gets a fair amount is laudable, but still unfair. SLT should sell on the basis of a guaranteed speed, not an imaginary speed that I can only achieve if I am lucky.

    Secondly, I find that the suggestion to charge as per usage for only international content a bit scary, but a pretty good idea when one thinks about it. As most web content is international to us, it would provide incentives for the creation of much-needed locally-generated web content. Presumably Gmail, Hotmail, etc would not come under this scheme though, unless someone came up with a local webmail and IM service (which is not impossible).

    However, such a scheme would have to be implemented carefully, as taking the limited international bandwidth and associating a usage charge would leave it open to being auctioned off to the highest bidders, as it were. What I am getting at is that we could end up with the scenario of only the ultra rich in Colombo having access to the international bandwidth pipeline, as they would be willing to pay more than less affluent people can afford, and the vendor would sell to those who are willing to the pay the most, naturally.

  5. JJ,

    I don’t watch videos over net, neither download not play games. for the type of the applications I use 512 k is more than enough, if I get it fully, or at least 75% of it. That is all I want. If I need to watch videos I will buy the DVD.

    Anyway, others might have different needs. I do not expect everybody to be satisfied with 512 k.

  6. donald gaminitillake

    Sometimes I need to transfer high resolution images across the net work. Even a 7 MB takes ages to upload

  7. Hi Chanuka,

    A small clarification. You say “Flat rates for local. Why burden teenagers who want to spend their day in chat rooms?” is hosted in the US. What was your definition of local?



  8. Sanjana,

    Sorry, I did not know is hosted in US.

    Wrong example, but think I make my point clear.

  9. Chanuka, my point was not that I am unsatisfied with 512k. I am quite like you, I don’t watch videos or play games over the net. My point was that SLT should not market a 512Kbps connection when it is not what they supply. As I said above, “SLT should sell on the basis of a guaranteed speed, not an imaginary speed that I can only achieve if I am lucky.”

    I am paying for 512kbps. If I don’t get it because SLT wants to ensure that other customers get more bandwidth, that is unfair to me.

    Would you go out and purchase a car supplied with only three wheels simply because there is a shortage of tyres in the country, whilst paying for four wheels? I think not.

    I never said sharing bandwidth across consumers is wrong – it is a limited resource and the market should be encouraged to share. But this should be a transparent process. As I explained above, SLT are selling 2Mbps ADSL for nearly 4 times the cost of 512kbps, with both products having the same effective performance (on international use).

    To me this just seems plain wrong. I guess what I am saying is that I wish the regulator would force vendors to state what their guaranteed average speed is, for both local and international internet use, perhaps with penalties for exaggerated figures. Then us consumers would get a clearer picture on what to spend our hard-earned cash on… :)

  10. JJ,

    Yeap, I agree.