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Friday, 5th August 2022

Envisioning the future of Sri Lanka with Ultra-Fast Fibre and 5G:  SLT-MOBITEL Technology Chiefs discusses the evolving trends

The SLT-MOBITEL brand has reinforced its leadership as a true digital enabler further emphasizing its promise of enriching people’s digital lives and empowering businesses to unlock their fullest potential. Mangala Samarajeewa, SLT Chief Network Officer and Rasantha Hettithanthrige, Mobitel Chief Technology Officer elaborates on how the Group is paving the way for network modernization, ensuring connectivity and digital inclusivity for all citizens.

What steps has SLT-MOBITEL taken to serve the nation’s connectivity needs?

Mangala Samarajeewa: As Sri Lanka’s leading broadband and backbone infrastructure provider, we are planning to cover 2 million premises (home passes) with fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) through an accelerated fibre connectivity programme and are now implementing the first phase of the project to achieve 1.6 million home passes. This project was launched before the COVID-19 pandemic and due to the surge in broadband demand it was expedited to cover all districts. We are also boosting our 4G fixed network capacity and coverage by optimizing our coverage and upgrading our base stations.

Expansion of our backbone network is being carried out in parallel, with new capacity being added to both the domestic and international optical fibre cable network. We are working on a new submarine cable (SEA-ME-WE 6 connecting France to Singapore with over 20,000 km of undersea cables) to be completed in 2024, expanding capacity of our existing submarine cable network to cater to Sri Lanka’s growing requirements, and expansion of our global IP network to ensure optimum international connectivity. We are also adding new rack space to our Pitipana data centre to serve the demand for data centre services.

Rasantha Hettithanthrige: In supporting the nation’s vision to provide 100% 4G LTE connectivity to every citizen in Sri Lanka, Mobitel has undertaken numerous initiatives including network modernization, implementation of future ready technologies such as NB-IOT, AI, BIG Data and many more. Further we were the first mobile network operator to deploy a Sub-1G mobile broadband network utilizing 850 MHz spectrum in Sri Lanka, launched the First Commercial 4.5G/4G+ Mobile Network in South Asia in 2018 and successfully trialed 5G by connecting a commercial Mobile smartphone to our 5G network. Our investments to improve network infrastructure across Sri Lanka has surpassed over USD 800M on the Mobile front. While we are committed to leading Sri Lanka towards the next phase of digital revolution, we continue to phase-out obsolete technologies and transform the resources by equipping with advance technologies to provide base level connectivity need for the people in rural areas and introduce cutting edge technologies to empower digitally savvy people and businesses. 

Further, SLT-MOBITEL as the Nation’s ICT Solutions Provider has taken prompt measures to uplift the education sector by donating laptops and desktops to support the ICT needs of school children and help improve the education of the younger generation.

How does backend engineering work to create a seamless experience for customers?

Mangala Samarajeewa:  The total management of our networks is the responsibility of the regional and in-house network teams. We conduct routine proactive and reactive maintenance, mainly for different technology platforms such as broadband network, IP network, global network, and undersea cables. In addition to maintaining and managing the network, we also carry out network development and implement new projects for capacity expansion and new product development.

Rasantha Hettithanthrige: Our backend engineering team works around the clock to conduct KPI monitoring on a daily basis and strives to maintain international industry standards in terms of connectivity, user experience, and overall value for money.  Adhering to this ethos, has helped us minimize site down time and provide a world class connectivity experience to our loyal customer base. Further, we conduct state-of-the-art technology upgrades such as 4.5G, Massive MIMO, Carrier Aggression technologies to enhance network capacity and improve our service levels. In addition, we also conduct targeted testing to evaluate the performance of base stations to ensure that every base station across the island is operating at its optimal capacity.

Can you elaborate on innovative technologies that have been introduced or in the process of being commissioned?

Mangala Samarajeewa: We recently introduced 1 Gbps FTTH services to customers in select locations in Colombo and Kandy, with other locations to be rolled out shortly. With our community Wi-Fi platform any SLT-MOBITEL broadband customer has access to about one million access points all over the world through their SLT-MOBITEL broadband selfcare account. In Sri Lanka alone over 500,000 community Wi-Fi hotspots are available for customers.

We are rolling out Software-Defined services, including SD-WAN, for enterprise customers which can provide flexible and economical connectivity. In our core network, we are going transforming our appliance-based equipment to software-based virtual networks, offering more reliability and flexibility. We are also working on automating our internal processes to improve the customer experience we deliver and increase the time our employees spend in adding value to our customer.

Rasantha Hettithanthrige: The latest initiative we have commissioned is the roll out of 5G Trial zones in Colombo, Kandy, Jaffna, Anuradhapura, and Galle where customers with 5G compatible devices can experience the best of 5G. Further, we have implemented asmart lamp pole’ solution in strategic locations across the island working with local Road Development Authorities to provide hotspot coverage without harming the aesthetic view of the environment. Additionally, we have introduced Internet of Things (IoT) related technologies such as ‘NB IoT’, mission critical communication and push to Talk (over the cellular) solutions and new generation 5G technology. In addition, we have also further improved our innovation arm by forming a research and development unit which looks into the breadth of the technology applications deployment across industries.

How does the macroeconomic challenges affecting the networks and what plans are in place to overcome them?

Mangala & Rasantha: The country is going through a challenging period with the prevailing Socio-Economic challenges. The crisis has impacted the livelihoods of people and has caused many small-scale businesses to shut down, large companies to rethink and multinationals to re-strategize their operations. The main challenge we face today is the currency fluctuation which is impacting our infrastructure sourcing and implementation. On the other hand, the cost of operation has increased by 40%. Telecommunication being an essential service, we are the only segment that has not gone through a price hike although all the other businesses have increased their prices.

 Further, we are now seeing a sudden demand for broadband internet and the volume of usage as majority of people are beginning to work from home. Since we increased the network coverage, throughput and increase in international ISP capacity to manage the high levels of resource utilization and network availability well ahead of and during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are in a better position to manage the rising demand without degrading service quality.

What are the benefits in transforming or upgrading internet connections to new technologies such as Fibre, 5G?

Mangala Samarajeewa: Through fibre we can go beyond our previous reach from a network node (about 20 km with fibre compared to about 2 km with copper) and provide a better service with limited interruptions, faster speed and more value for money. SLT-Mobitel Fibre which can go up to 1 Gbps provides customers with a more reliable broadband internet experience and enables PEO TV customers to experience FHD and even 4K content in future. We can also offer wide range of value-added services on fibre– such as enterprise VPN services and backhauling for other operators.

Rasantha Hettithanthrige: The use of new technologies will not only support accelerated digital transformation and drive the development of digital economy but also enhance customer experience in quality and performance (speed). In the future our network will be modified to cater to 5G on a commercial basis. Although we have begun 5G trial implementation, we are also making necessary infrastructure changes to gear our existing 4G network to be able to easily transform into 5G ready netowrk.

Through intelligent networks we can provide low latency, ultra-reliable and high-capacity services catering for industrial applications (robotics/AI/automation etc) and support the nation as we move towards the future industrial 4.0 revolution. In summary, with latest technologies such as 5G, people’s lives will be Smarter, businesses will have competitive advantage, pushing Sri Lanka towards digital inclusion.

How do you aim to empower all citizens through digital inclusivity?

Mangala Samarajeewa: Our vision is “all Sri Lankans seamlessly connected with world-class information, communication and entertainment services”, and we are working towards achieving it by providing seamless connectivity to locations across the country. We are supporting the country’s vision of a digital society by supporting the initiatives of TRCSL by providing the fibre based backhaul to new mobile operator sites and extending the reach of our FTTH network. We are committed to provide superior broadband connectivity to mobile base stations, schools, businesses and ultimately to all communities in the island.

 Rasantha Hettithanthrige: By working with public-private partners, we continue to enhance coverage especially in rural areas, providing access to information and enabling them to connect with the digital world through fibre or through 4G.

As the National Mobile Service provider, Mobitel has already invested more than LKR 1.5Bn on 5G and more than 20% of our 4G equipment are 5G ready as well. Further, we have also carried out numerous public demonstrations and school programs on 5G, Virtual Reality, AI, Big Data, NB-IOT and many more to enhance their knowledge and experience what the future of technologies can offer to the market. We believe that it is our duty to lead Sri Lanka towards digital inclusion whilst preserving good governance and protecting the Environment.

Further, we would like to highlight that it’s important to consider Telecoms as a Merit Good and provide required incentives to the industry enabling the Service Providers to bring-in Products and Servicers at affordable prices so that markets and other industries can truly benefit from the telco services as a true catalyst in enabling them to leapfrog and help economic resurgence of our nation.

Mr. Mangala Samarajeewa- Chief Network Officer, SLT.

Mr. Mangala Samarajeewa- Chief Network Officer, SLT.

 

Mr. Rasantha Hettithanthrige, Chief Technology Officer, Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd.

Mr. Rasantha Hettithanthrige, Chief Technology Officer, Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd. 

 

SLT-MOBITEL Mobile 5G Trial Site in Colombo

 

Galle Submarine Cable Depot

 

Sunday, 31st July 2022

SLT-MOBITEL - DIGITALLY READY FOR A SYSTEM CHANGE IN SRI LANKA   

Announces national proposal for future-focused technology and digitally empowered citizens to usher change and growth

26 July 2022, Colombo – SLT-MOBITEL, the leading communication and technology service provider in Sri Lanka announced a national proposal to enhance critical services and sectors, and digitally empower citizens.

SLT-MOBITEL, one of the most powerful players in the telecommunications and technology sector, cites archaic legacy systems, inefficiency, corruption, heavy operational costs and waste in critical sectors and services to be the main reason to expedite a system change in the country.

 

The new system change proposed by SLT-MOBITEL places digitally empowered citizens at its foundation, with digitalisation of identities and strong digital security and privacy. This will serve as the building block for new technological innovations that can strengthen Digital Commerce and E-Governance in all aspects of operations critical to the county. SLT-MOBITEL has identified healthcare, education, transportation, agriculture, tourism, judiciary and banking and finance as critical services and sectors that can thrive under this new system, more efficiently and transparently.    

Elaborating on this new system change for the country, Rohan Fernando, Group Chairman, Sri Lanka Telecom said, “Much like Singapore did, Sri Lanka has the potential to transition to a Smart Nation, making innovative technology the backbone of every sphere of activity. By doing this, key issues currently facing the country can be addressed and critical sectors and services can be transformed into highly efficient, transparent, and profitable systems which in turn can transform people's lives. Our vision is to move the country towards E-Governance and Digital Commerce. We have the broadest presence across the value chain and unparalleled capacity to meet the needs of tech companies, large corporates, public and state institutions. With our capabilities and strong infrastructure across the country, we believe we are fully geared to undertake this challenge and bring about the change the people of this country want to see.”      

SLT-MOBITEL which began over 160 years ago as a state-owned national communications service provider, transformed itself over the years into a highly profitable and efficient publicly listed conglomerate, offering technology and connectivity solutions, ready-to-go technology platforms, advanced network backbone services and digital infrastructure.

“The brand unification initiative of SLT-MOBITEL in 2020 brought together the best services of fixed and mobile technology. It couldn’t have come at a better time, as the same year saw a dramatic increase in the need for technology and connectivity solutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeing this surge and understanding the demand of the future, we extended our fibre network to 65,000km across Sri Lanka, offering fast and accessible broadband services to boost the digital capacity in the country. The SLT Group has the largest data centres in the country, and our longstanding partnerships with global tech giants like Microsoft, Oracle and VMware mean we are fully equipped to provide the most secure hosting services for public and state institutions, as well as large corporates and foreign investors. As we continue to invest in infrastructure, our efforts are now focused on developing technological solutions for the challenges the country is facing today and will face tomorrow. SLT-MOBITEL is digitally ready for that system change we all want to see in Sri Lanka,” said Mr. Fernando.

Under this system change proposition, SLT-MOBITEL will focus on Healthcare, Education, Transportation, Agriculture, Tourism, Judiciary and Banking and Finance.

E-Healthcare

Access to healthcare is a basic need. However, the healthcare sector is facing many challenges today which inhibits citizens from accessing services and data. The proposal by SLT-MOBITEL aims to digitalise the healthcare sector and will revolutionise the industry. It offers access to real-time information, remote patient monitoring, preventative care, timely assistance, healthcare analysis, and overall better patient care with data privacy and security. Digitalising the sector will give healthcare practitioners and citizens access to information anytime, and also improve efficiency and return-on-investment for the industry.

Online Education

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent economic challenges, access to continued education has become another national priority. These macroeconomic factors have left children and teachers no choice but to move towards online education. However, rural areas have limited access and teachers require training in digital technology and eLearning solutions. eLearning and Smart Classrooms need to be actively promoted as the future of education.

With these factors in mind, SLT-MOBITEL has outlined the steps to digitalise Sri Lanka’s education sector. The 10,000+ schools in the country can be provided high-speed internet access through the company’s expansive fibre network, processes can be automated through the introduction of digital tools and technology, while libraries can be digitised for inclusive and continued access. Further, teachers and students will be introduced to Learning Management Systems (LMS) to build a more agile and effective education sector.

E-Transport

With the increasing urbanisation of the country, transportation and the congestion caused by it has a direct impact on the economy. Loss of time while travelling, excessive fuel consumption, increased wear and tear of automobiles and higher cases of road accidents all lead to a negative impact on national productivity.

SLT-MOBITEL proposes the digitalization of the country’s transportation sector. From multi-modal tour plans, online ticket reservations, tracking apps for public transportation such as buses and trains, providing onsite WiFi and enabling cashless payments, Sri Lanka’s transportation sector has tremendous potential to be more efficient and productive.

 

E-Agriculture

Sri Lanka’s food security has become a national priority in light of a multitude of issues faced by local famers, inhibiting their ability to meet demand. The current agriculture value-chain is affected by obstacles at each stage – irregular climate patterns and the onset of pests and diseases affect yield; price volatility, lack of accurate information on demand and supply affect farmers’ profitability; and distribution can be inefficient and disorganised leading to high-wastage.

SLT-MOBITEL is driving the digitalization of Sri Lanka’s agri value-chain with the Helaviru Digital Economic Centre, a platform that will provide farmers easy access to information and insights, as well as a trading platform for transparent transactions. The company is also accelerating digital adoption of farming communities through capacity building programmes and by introducing smart farming solutions.

E-Tourism

Tourism is a critical sector for Sri Lanka, especially in bringing in much needed foreign exchange. However, the industry is currently struggling due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as recent global and local economic challenges. Data analytics and insights will be key in identifying Sri Lanka’s competitive advantage against other countries in the region and rebuild a thriving tourism industry.

SLT-MOBITEL is currently developing a single web portal for all potential tourists to digitally enable the country’s tourism sector. This platform will be a centralised tourism hub, providing tourists with the information they need to plan their own stays or connect them with tour operators who have pre-planned options. This platform will also provide much needed data and insights on the visiting tourists, which can be used to further develop the industry.

E-Judiciary

Justice delayed is justice denied – the main issue plaguing Sri Lanka’s judiciary at present. From the high number of court cases to the time taken to serve a verdict, the limited access to information, outdated systems needing multiple physical documents and lack of integration within the judiciary, all lead to delays in the process, making it inefficient.

SLT-MOBITEL’s proposed solution is to fully digitalise the Sri Lankan judiciary system. From establishing a digitised record keeping process, to an automated platform to set hearing dates in commercial high courts, a virtual solution for court hearings when logistics become an obstacle, and the digital integration across other entities (i.e. Police) will lead to a more efficient judiciary system in the country.

Banking & Finance

In a world where more people are working, playing, living online, a world of opportunities await Sri Lankan businesses and entrepreneurs. Connectivity speed and access is critical for this future. SLT-MOBITEL’s vision in transforming the current banking and finance sector to meet the demands of this future will see the digitalisation of this critical sector, so it is able to support cashless transactions and become a catalyst to promote e-commerce in Sri Lanka.

 

Monday, 18th July 2022

SLT-MOBITEL Becomes the first telco to offer ‘Eco Channelling Delivery’ - a sustainable initiative connecting medication solution to doorsteps via eChannelling

eChannelling, the channelling arm of SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT, Telecommunications and Mobile Services Provider launched its novel product ‘Eco Channelling Delivery’ a doorstep distribution system for medication, personalising healthcare further and creating a more environmentally friendly distribution mechanism.

Importantly, SLT-MOBITEL is the first telco brand to launch this novel, sustainable and valuable service. Medication once ordered is delivered to customers within the day via a bicycle manned by an SLT-MOBITEL’s mAgent with an affordable charge of only Rs 200/- comprising a 5km radius of Colombo 1-8 from the vendor - a reputed Hospital pharmacy in Colombo 3.

mAgent are individuals empowered by SLT-MOBITEL to support this worthy initiative and further expand SLT-MOBITEL’s products and services across Sri Lanka.

Individuals have the option of ordering their requirements on a daily basis by clicking the ‘Eco channelling’ quick access through the website https://www.echannelling.com/ or by downloading the echannelling app, and delivery will take place between 4.00pm-6.00pm daily. An e-statement on the billed value will be forwarded by the vendor. Customers can settle payment via either cash on delivery, effect online payments or through POS machines.

The main objective of eChannelling’s ‘Eco Channelling Delivery’ initiative is to provide uninterrupted service during these challenging times that the country is going through. ‘Eco Channelling Delivery’ ensures prompt and attentive service with medication delivery guaranteed within a day.

The timely drive is implemented understanding the present country situation faced by society to fulfil their basic needs due to numerous issues. Additionally, commuting using a bicycle is environmentally friendly and a sustainable solution, as zero fuel and electric consumption for transportation contributes towards a healthier change in lifestyles and wellbeing.

eChannelling has continuously opened new avenues in creating a convenient lifestyle for society through the digital era using web and app platforms. Eco Delivery is undertaken by the SLT-MOBITEL’s logistical arm through its mAgent service and part of the organisation’s commitment to help the nation receive essential medication through a prescription delivered to one’s doorstep seven days of the week.

eChannelling plans to expand the delivery service island wide, accommodating customers and the healthcare sector in addition to many more integrations with an array of service providers to facilitate a more convenient and reliable doorstep process driven delivery mechanism.

SLT-MOBITEL Mobile mAgent team & a customer receiving the medication from an mAgent

 

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