Reflecting on Sri Lanka’s international connectivity issues in Paro, Bhutan

Posted on October 1, 2014  /  1 Comments

I write this sitting at a UN ESCAP consultation on the Asia Pacific Information Superhighway in Paro, Bhutan. Bhutan is a country of around 800,000 people which has two fiber cables connecting the main cities to the Indian cables in the Siliguri area. Actual broadband user experience is patchy.

Because there was no official representative from Sri Lanka, I was asked to stand in. My presentation is here.

The biggest problem in Sri Lanka’s international connectivity all this time was the Telecom Regulatory Commission’s inability or unwillingness to remedy the leveraging of inherited control over the submarine cable landing stations by Sri Lanka Telecom, which kept IP Transit prices unnaturally high.

But if regulatory neglect continues long enough, the market will respond. I thought this would happen when Reliance landed a cable in Sri Lanka in collaboration with Lanka Bell several years ago, using a newly built landing station. But for reasons I have yet to fully understand, Lanka Bell failed to offer reasonable competition to SLT.

Now, we are just months away from the landing of another consortium cable, Bay of Bengal Gateway (BBG). Among BBG’s investors are Dialog Axiata (the counterweight to SLT in the Sri Lanka market) and Etisalat, which also has operations in Sri Lanka. More than SEA-ME-WE 5, I believe BBG has the potential to remove distortions from the Sri Lanka international connectivity market.

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