1 The Telecommunication Industry of Sri Lanka Global Information Society- Term Paper Submitted by: Neha Rauniyar (PPE Major) Submitted to: Professor Faheem Hussain Soumya Samuel (CS Major) Thushanthini Jeyatissa (CS Major)
2 Table of Contents Country Profile Introduction Situation Analysis The present status of the ICT/Telecom industry Telecom/Internet penetration and market players Status of Internet connectivity and market players in ICT industry Telecom and ICT regulations/acts Universal service New and emerging technologies (i.e. 3G, WiMax, VoIP etc.) Status of '3A' Challenges/Problems identified Strategic Priorities/Recommendations Conclusion Country Profile Sri Lanka Capital Population Currency : Colombo : 20.4 million (2010 data) : Rupee Literacy Rate : 91% (2008) GDP per capita (PPP): 5026 (2010 Est.) Political System: Republic (2010 Est.) Source: (Legatum Institute, 2010)
3 Introduction: The telecommunication industry of Sri Lanka, though started from a small basis, has shown a significant growth in the recent years. Sri Lankan telecom sector was liberalized in 1991 and was further advanced with its part-privatized in 1997 (Sri Lanka Telecommunications Research, 2009). Further, the monopoly status of Sri Lanka was weakened in 1996 with the increment in fixed-line telephone service operators, reaching 60 by mid-2009 (Sri Lanka Telecommunications Research, 2009). Also, the challenges faced by Sri Lanka of a nearly twodecade long conflict between the government and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels facilitated towards founding the telecom sector well positioned for dynamic growth (Sri Lanka Key Statistics, Telecom Market Overview & Forecasts). Today, telecom Industry sector is a $0.8 billion industry, contributing around 2% directly and 5% indirectly to the national output (News). This paper focuses on the current situation of Sri Lanka telecommunication industry, its problems and challenges, and suggests some strategies to enhance the present telecom industry of Sri Lanka. The present status of the ICT/Telecom industry: At the present, Sri Lanka has a liberalized telecommunications market which has huge impacts on economic and social development of the country. The Telecommunication Authority of Sri Lanka (TASL) is the regulator of telecom industry and TASL is responsible for licensing for any companies to provide various telecommunication services under the Telecommunication Act of 1991 (Sri Lanka s Information Infrastructure, n.d). There are four Fixed Access Operators, five Cellular Mobile Operators, six Data communications and Internet service Providers (facilities based), twenty four Data and Internet Service Providers (non facilities based) and thirty two External Gateway Operators. Also, 7500 public phone services are spread across the country (List of License Operators, n.d). The Fixed Access Operators are: (List of License Operators, n.d) Sri Lanka Telecom Limited. Suntel (Private) Limited Lanka Bell (Pvt) Limited Dialog Broadband Networks (Pvt) Ltd Cellular Mobile Operators are: Dialog Telekom Limited
4 Hutchison Telecommunications Lanka Mobitel (Pvt) Limited Celltel Lanka Limited Bharti Airtel Lanka (Private) Limited Telecom/Internet penetration and market players: The Government of Sri Lanka owns 52% shares of Sri Lanka Telecom Limited (SLT) which is the only fixed wire-line telecommunications service provider. In 1999, the government divested the stakes of Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) and assigned the company management control to Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NIIT) of Japan. This partial privatization of Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) has a greater level of penetration on fixed line and mobile phone market (SLT / Vision & Mission, n.d). The SLT is integrated and has monopoly power in telecommunications market for domestic services, international voice service operations until Since the privatization, the growth rate of fixed line subscribers is increased and there after due to the rise of annual tax and marketing prices for domestic services subscriber growth is declined. However, with this decline in the telecom environment the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and mobile phone are introduced in the telecom which is the fixed. Due to these market diffusion the telecommunication services sector has grown significantly and it has 54.5 percent of average growth rate from 1994 to 2004 (Perera, 2010). In a while, new, faster and more efficient technologies are introduced to the Sri Lankan telecommunication sector. The telecommunication environment is established by second generation digital communication systems (2G), automatic international roaming, short messaging services (SMS), wireless application, protocol mobile internet (WAP) general packet radio service (GPRS) and band and multimedia messaging services (MMS). In 2004, the participation of private sectors expands the mobile marketing with new technologies and enhanced network coverage (Sri Lanka s Information Infrastructure, n.d). In addition, the access of Sea Me-We 4 international fiber optic submarine cable is launched on 2005 and that connects South East Asia to European Countries through Indian Subcontinent and Middle East. Then, SLT has signed an agreement with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) of India for an under submarine cable system to connect South India to Colombo (SLT:Our History, n.d). Also Sri
5 Lanka s largest mobile operator, Dialog Telekom Limited, become as a shareholder of Telekom Malaysia in order to have the access of this new cable system (Perera, 2010). Furthermore, Wireless Internet (WiMAX) network is launched within two years by SLT and SLT also offers mobile broadband access and internet protocol television (IPTV). The Telecommunication Regulatory Commission allocates 3.5 gigahertz frequency broadband for WiMAX and also a test of frequency was allocated to SLT for the rollout of WiMAX project in Colombo, Kandy, and Galle (Category, n.d). Additionally, Indian s Bharti Airtel Ltd enters into Sri Lankan telecommunication market as a fifth mobile phone operator in 2008 and offers 2G and 3G services (Perera, 2010). In 2008, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NIIT) of Japan, the shareholder of SLT, sold its entire holding to Global Telecommunications Holdings N.V. of Netherlands (SLT:Our History, n.d). Overall, expandability of telecom services providers improves telecommunication s market penetration. Status of Internet connectivity and market players in ICT industry: Sri Lanka telecom industry is established by fixed and wireless local loop operators, and mobile and public phone operators. ICT industry of Sri Lanka focuses on IT and telecommunication sectors, such as PC, internet, mobile and fixed telephone services, and broadband market. However, the broadband penetration level is very low and its cost is high in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has developed the available technology for internet connectivity such as ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) fixed wire-line services to WiMAX fixed wireless broadband access, and GPRS (General packet radio service) mobile telephony internet to HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) mobile broadband internet to the consumers. As the result, usage of internet has a significant growth which is shown by the table in next page (Local Industry News, n.d).
6 Table: 01:- Statistic of Internet users and Population of Sri Lanka Year Users Population %Pen. GDP (US$) ,500 19,630, % N/A ,000 19,796, % 1, ,700 21,128, % 1, ,163,500 21,324, % 2, ,776,200 21,513, % 1,807 Source: International Monetary Fund (Internet Stats, 2010). Within 10 years number of Internet users throughout Sri Lanka has increased almost 8%. Table 01 shows in 2000, there is only 0.5% of population have used internet. However, in 2010, the usage of internet among the country s population is 8.3% (Internet Stats, 2010). SLT is fixed wired broadband provider who offers ADSL internet service in the country and also owns WiMAX broadband network. Besides, Lanka Bell is also a fixed broadband internet provider in Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka s Information Infrastructure, n.d). Then, Dialog provides WiMAX fixed wireless internet access and HSPA mobile broadband internet connectivity. Moreover, Mobitel provides mobile 3G broadband internet connections under HSPA and Airtel operator also provides HSPA mobile broadband internet access only (Perera, 2010). However, still now there are only 5 market players and providers for internet service in the ICT industry of Sri Lanka. Presently the country has the lack of competition within the internet service market which reflects on the cost. Telecom and ICT regulations/acts: The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) is responsible for regulating and monitoring the development of the telecommunications sector. Also TRCSL ensures the competition in the telecommunication industry as open, fair, and effective as possible. In order to satisfy the public interest in terms of quality, choice and worth for money there have to be a better relationship between the public and service providers (Legislation, n.d). Though the TRCSL encouraged private sector investments in telecommunication market, makes sure that the market players have the resources to fulfill the public s needs. The Sri Lanka Telecommunications Act, No. 25 of 1991
7 The Sri Lanka Telecommunications Act, No. 25 of 1991 amended by Sri lank a Telecommunications (Amendment) Act, No. 27of This Act states that for the rights and responsibilities of the sectors of telecommunication there have to be a commission which is called Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL). As the regulator, TRCSL has the power of decision making of regulation for the telecommunication industry (Legislation, n.d). The responsibilities of the Commission include the following: Proper creation of a competitive environment Encourage Competition for consumer interest Facilitate interconnection Establish a general framework of taxing, non discriminatory and transparent licensing for a new entry Regulate joint projects, unions and achievements Price regulation Consumer protection Regulation of traffic facilities and scarce resources Ensure Universal Access Preparation and management for Emergency disaster Enforcement of provisions in the Act Licensing: The section 17 of Telecommunication Act 1996 is required to obtain a license from applicable minister to operate a telecommunication system in Sri Lanka. The process of licensing is non discriminatory, and transparent to encourage the competition and participation in the market. TRCSL makes the final decision of granting any licenses, and in order to grant a license, the applied operator has to have the capable resources and skills operate the telecommunication system. When the TRCSL has the satisfaction on applied operator only the license is granted (Telecommunications Act Part II, 2010).
8 Interconnection: The Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka makes regulations for interconnections under section 68 of the Sri Lanka Telecommunication Act, No. 25 of 1991 as amended by Act, No. 27 of The rules are applied to all connectable operators and the operators are allowed to connect to any interconnected telecommunication system (Telecommunications Act Part I, 2010). The regulation required all access service providers to be connected with each others; however, the Act stated that the interconnection is mandatory to connectable operators in order to provide an efficient, non discriminatory and cost oriented basis services (Hattotuwa, 2010 and ). Market Structure and Competition: Sri Lanka has a flexible, open, and market oriented environment, these allows private sectors to enter and develop in response to the demand of consumers and public needs. In order to have a liberalized environment, the traditional limitations of entering into market are eliminated. The private sectors are allowed to provide services to encourage fair and effective competition in market. This extension of the industry brings new technologies and development to telecommunication industry (Quality of Service, n.d). As a result of Also the competition between providers, new equipment, technologies and services are introduced and replaced in the market. Consumer Protection: The TRCSL is responsible to protect consumer from unfair and deceptive marketing practices and unwarranted use of provide customer information. The regulation is established for monitoring and preventing those practices and behaviors. TRCSL requires all licensed telecommunication operators and service providers to have their own procedures for responding to consumer compliant regarding inappropriate behavior and violations of privacy (Hattotuwa, 2010). Universal service: Universal service refers to the ability of everyone to have access to the necessities, regardless of the location, ethnicity, gender and any other type of disability (ict regulation toolkit, n.d). Since the World War II, Sri Lankan governments have related universal service in the context of basic health services, primary education, water and sanitation (Abeykoon, n.d). However, as today ICT is recognized as a pillar of modern society, most of the developing
9 countries have integrated telecom service under universal service, including Sri Lanka as well (ict regulation toolkit, n.d). Most of the time, there has been a strong relationship between ICT use and economic development, meaning ICT as a crucial factor but not an adequate condition for economic development (Samarajiva, 2004). In the context of Sri Lanka, they refer universal service as Vishva Grama Fund that ensure towards openness of modern communication services throughout Sri Lanka and predominantly, in the villages where there is lack of telecom suppliers and policies (Samarajiva, 2008; The World Dialogue on Regulation for Network Economies, 2003). With the term universal service, universal service fund is greatly interconnected, which is a new form of targeted financial support to make the universal service available. Sri Lankan government has also step ahead and started collecting tax from international calls for universal service. Their intention was to reduce the amounts every year; however, this strategy was unsuccessful because of some political and improper regulation (Samarajiva, 2009). The main focus of Sri Lanka has been to utilize universal service funds as a means of stimulating investment and service levels for rural areas. Above all, the recent key priority of Sri Lankan government is enabling a digital society; a modern, progressive society that is an outcome of integrating information and communication technologies at home, work, education and recreation (TOPS.lk, 2009). Sri Lankan government has initiated several projects, emphasizing the need of rural areas and to provide unrestricted sources of information to all its citizens. The Nenasala Project is one among several implemented under the e-sri Lanka Initiative, which in addition to providing ICT to rural areas also assists in poverty reduction, social and economic development, and peace building (nanasala.org, 2007). Some of the services provided by Nenasala are: Rural Knowledge Centers: It provides many ICT services ( , telephones, and computer training classes) which is long-term and effective. E-Libraries: It is established at the center of villages with large e-library of books, access to high speed internet for national, international and local information.
10 Distance & e-learning centers: It helps in providing new information, sharing and learning opportunities through infrastructure facilities such as a video conferencing room, multimedia and computer laboratory. Tsunami camp computer kiosks: It has established small computer cabin in welfare camps for people displaced in Tsunami and are provided with free information on health, education, vocational training in their own local language (nanasala.org, 2007). Sri Lanka, with such an effective project is doing its level best to provide universal services importantly, in the rural areas. However, following some other techniques such as allowing suppliers to extend their services, opening market for competition and effective policy to address the undersupply of services can help universal service to be achieved more efficiently in Sri Lanka (Samarajiva, 2004). Hence, in this 21 st century, with the advancement in technological infrastructure, there is an immense need to pause and reflect on the changing meanings and modify universal service in a way that best serve the vital needs of rural communities. New and emerging technologies (i.e. 3G, WiMax, VoIP etc.): There has been an incredible growth of the telecom industry with innovative and promising technologies every now and then. In fact, Sri Lanka is one of the first countries in the Asian region to launch 3G, 3.5G services and High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) technology. Introducing such technology have enabled subscribers not only to have access to voice communications but are also provided with broad range of facilities such as video conferencing, video streaming, mobile TV, music streaming and high speed internet (TOPS.lk, 2009). Moreover, with the support of the University of Surrey and Surrey Technology Ltd. situated in UK, Sri Lanka has also move ahead to build up space technology (TOPS.lk, 2009). Through continuous research and support, Sri Lanka has include EZ Pay (m-payments), VOIP calling, training/education and retail as well (Ssg-advisors, 2009). Technologies such as HSDPA and WiMax has also offered high transfer data rates (>512kbps) and established a connectivity rate structure which is less expensive (Ssg-advisors, 2009). Project titled, e-sri Lanka, launched in November 2002 is also one step forward for providing new and emerging services to all the citizens of Sri Lanka. It focuses towards bridging of the digital divide, meaning reducing the gap between those who have access as well as skills to use ICT with those who have limited or no access (ifip.org, n.d.). Similarly, Sri Lanka has also
11 taken initiation to provide telecom facilities for people with disabilities. Payphones are been fixed at centers where people with disabilities live, learn or work and special telephone equipment has been installed for hearing impaired children in Sri Lanka (ifip.org, n.d). Fig.1 The Geography of Technological Innovation and Achievement Source: UNDP Human Development Report 2001 Sri Lanka According to the UNDP Development Report 2001, a study done by Wired Magazine, countries has been categorized according to the significance in the digital environment. Figure.1 shows that Sri Lanka falls under "dynamic adopters," meaning Sri Lanka is actively embracing technology for the workplace and their own work experience. However, countries like Argentina, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Mexico falls under potential leaders (WIPO, 2001). Chart 01:- Growth of Software Exports Sri Lankan software industry has also shown an average annual growth rate of around 40% during 1996 to 2001 (UNDP, 2006). Thus, Sri Lanka is rapidly progressing in the process of developing new and emerging technologies. Source: Sri Lanka Information and Communication Technology Association (SLICTA, 2005)
12 Status of '3A': Accessibility, affordability and availability (3A s) of telecommunication services is a vital and primarily steps to attain the national development goals and sustainability. Sri Lanka has defined these three hallmarks as accessibility, connectivity and content and is handled by Information Infrastructure Program (ICTA, 2009). Accessibility refers to all citizens can use the services regardless of the location or gender; affordability meaning reasonable price to the service and availability means service offered in every parts of the country (Thornton.co, 2008). There has been a strong correlation between accessibility, affordability and availability. For instance, anything available can only be accessible and similarly, affordability relies on the price that we can get access to the services. a) Accessibility: In context of Sri Lanka, citizens have limited accessibility to telecommunication services. As estimated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), user penetration was around 6% by end-2008, probably reaching 8% by late 2009 (BuddeComm, 2010). For Sri Lanka, rather than a lack of demand for services, low penetration levels have been the rising problem because of the acute supply constraints (BuddeComm, 2010). It implies that there is a lack of availability of telecom services rather than the problem of affordability in Sri Lanka. Further, during the Presidential election, Sri Lankan news websites were inaccessible from government owned telecom and only accessible by the private owned telecom industry, raising the issue of censorship (LIRNEasia, 2010). b) Affordability: According to the study done by Nokia, Sri Lanka has the lowest Total Cost Ownership (TCO) for a mobile phone, which is less than US$ 5, thus making its affordability very high (TOPS.lk, 2009). However, there has always been a difference in context of rural and urban areas. Rural user most likely use the telephone to make essential phone calls, while urban one use their phones as more than a basic commodity. Also, affordability is seen as a problem to expansion in demand for broadband Internet connectivity in Sri Lanka (LankaNewspaper, 2010).
13 c) Availability: There is a need for the availability of Internet, , e-finance, e-commerce and other services that can play an imperative role in global commercial activity. Further, high priority for extending infrastructure to those parts of the country which has been most affected by the longrunning civil war that ended in May 2009 is vital (BuddeComm, 2009). Though Internet age began in Sri Lanka in 1995, rural citizens still remains disconnect from internet facilities (Wattegama, 2008). There have been very few efforts taken to benefit Internet in the rural communities. One of the major obstacle to facilitate Internet in Sri Lanka, especially in rural areas is lack of local language content and using own proprietary standard which limit documents produced using one application to be accessed by only that application (ifip.org, n.d). Table 02:- Penetration of telecom services Category Fixed-line penetration (population) 17% 17% Internet subscriber penetration (population) 1.20% 1.30% Mobile penetration (population) 55% 71% (Source:BuddeComm) This graph shows that over the period of one year, mobile penetration has rapidly been increased while there is no growth in penetration level of fixed-line and only 0.1% growth in internet subscriber. Thus, Sri Lanka needs to improve over the internet subscriber penetration in this age of Internet. Challenges of Sri Lankan telecommunication industry:
14 Development in the technology field mainly in telecommunication sector will have a huge impact on the country s economic development. In Sri Lanka telecommunication industry is the fastest growing sector with an average rate of 30% to 35% per year which mainly provides the major telecommunication services such as telephone (both wire and wireless connection), cellular connections, internet, and radio paging (Ratnayake,Chang,&Bimanee,2006). Among the all telecommunication services in Sri Lanka, mobile network has a huge growth of 73% and it plays the role of a monopoly (Ratnayake, Chang, &Bimanee, 2006). Although Sri Lanka is having a significant growth in its telecommunication services there are some challenges that the country is facing which hinders the development of these services. This part of the paper will be focusing on the four major challenges that hider the telecommunication industry of Sri Lanka are, disparity of service availability in urban and rural areas, lack of proper planning and policy making of the government, unavailability of infrastructure and lack of awareness about the industry, internal problems like war and natural disaster. Urban and Rural Service Disparity: One of the major challenges that hinder the growth of the telecommunication industry of Sri Lanka is the disparity in the availability of the telecommunication services in urban and rural areas. In comparison to the urban areas, the rural part of Sri Lanka is getting very less facilities mainly in the telephone services and internet accessibility where the rural areas hold more than half of the population (ITA, 2004). In Sri Lanka, about 70% of telephone services are concentrated on the urban areas mainly in the capital city, Colombo which constitutes only 5% of the whole Sri Lankan population (APDIP, 2006). Figure: 1 shows the status of telephones in the villages of the main South-Asian villages in 2001 (ITU, 2002). According to this among all the villages only 11% of the villages have the telephone services (ITU, 2002). One of the main reasons behind the lack of telecommunication services in the rural parts is the high cost for establishing and maintaining a new service (ITA, 2004). Along with that the providers are reluctant to provide service in these area considering the cost and benefit of the establishment in rural areas than in the cities (ITA, 2004). Table 03:- Status of telephones in South Asia villages (2001)
15 Villages Country Number Number with telephone service Percentage with telephone service Bangladesh Bhutan 6000 N/A N/A India Maldives Nepal Pakistan Sri Lanka Total Source: (ITU, 2002) Lack of proper planning and policy making of the government: Although the growth rate of the Sri Lankan telecommunication industry is high,the major challenges they come across is the lack of proper planning and policy making of the government in this sector. This is explicit from the fact that the government is spending more money for the telecommunication services like internet but the facilities that they are getting is less compare to the money that they spend (Rajapakse& Dissanayake, nd). In addition, the problems with the policies that the government adopts also act as a barrier for the telecommunication industry development. For example, there are no specific competition policies which encourage the competition in Sri Lanka resulting into the absence of a competition market and hence hinder the quality of the services (Balasooriya, Alam & Coghill, 2006). Moreover, high rate of debt and spending the money for war in the past rather than developing the country in terms of IT is less (Asia Internet Plaza, nd). Additionally, the government is lacking in fulfilling the availability of the telephone services in many parts of the country mainly in the rural areas (Asia Internet Plaza, nd). Further the Sri Lankan government has a poor regulatory management for the spectrum allocation for the telecommunication services (Perumal, nd). Moreover the role of debt and favoritism in terms of spectrum allocation among the country administration also hinders the actual growth of the telecommunication industry (Perumal, nd). Non-availability of effective Mechanisms and awareness:
16 In Sri Lanka mainly in the case of the internet accessibility the major challenges that the country faces is the high cost of the software and hardware (Business Monitor International,2010). For example, buying software and hardware, initial cost of getting internet connection, monthly charge for subscription is quite high in the sense that it acts as a barrier to the customers to get connected (Business Monitor International,2010).Such expenses still remain beyond the reach of most of the individuals in Sri Lanka (Business Monitor International,2010).At present, affordability is the main limitation to the growth of the internet connectivity in Sri Lanka (Business Monitor International,2010).It is mainly the urban people, businesses and private sector corporations who use the Internet (Business Monitor International,2010).There is also a severe urban and rural disparity related with the Internet, telephone, and public internet facilities are also limit (Business Monitor International,2010). Besides, the lack of trained professionals in the IT field also hinders the ICT development in the country (Business Monitor International, 2010). Strategic Priorities and Recommendation: In order to have a sustainable telecommunication industry, the Sri Lankan telecom sector should make policies and acts regarding competition where the private sectors can participate. Government should make the service more accessible in rural, urban as well as war prone areas by providing more public phones and the tele-centers. In addition, the government can make surveys and analysis regarding the accessibility, availability and affordability in different parts of the country. Initiatives should be taken for the private-public partnerships to ensure sustainable growth of industry (Perumal, nd). Since, there is lack of trained professionals in Sri Lanka; more people should be trained in IT fields. Comparing to the case of the Bell company which lacked effective policy and government monitoring, Sri Lanka since is in its phase of IT development should consider effective policy making and analyze the present legislation.
17 Universal service meaning should be modified from time to time so that it can efficiently meet the need of the people. Full participation in e-commerce and e-governance should be empowered to improve access, transparency and efficiency in the telecom business (ifip.org, n.d.). Local ICT products and services should continue to be further promoted. Promoting growth of the private sector by outsourcing government services to private sector using ICT (ifip.org, n.d.). If it is difficult to obtain fund from government, fund for universal service can be collected through regulatory fees. Computer literacy to rural people, importance and need of internet usage, bridging the gap between rural, encouraging people who are reluctance to attain new skills are vital. Creating knowledge -based society, meaning government has transparency in its action and display important statistics about the economy in a manner that the entire citizen can easily have access to it. This will help in brining potential strength and enhanced skills from individuals in transforming the ICT industry with regard to greater goods of people (ITA, 2004). Conclusion: Overall, the telecom industry of Sri Lanka has shown a progressive growth with its initiation in various projects and development of market players. Telecom industry has made an enormous impact on the daily lives of urban citizens through its influence in health, banking, communications, research and entertainment; however, has ignored the large part of rural areas. Thus, the real challenge for the Sri Lankan telecom industry is to deliberately organize the telecom industry in a manner that simultaneously enhances ordinary citizens lives.
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