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Next Generation Network Insights – Why Sri Lanka Telecom is building networks for the future

Broadband Forum Asia co-located with NGON Asia runs in Hong Kong next month and is billed as one of the most connected cities in the world.

We took time out to speak to Rajiv Weragama, Service Assurance Engineer, responsible for operations in the Kandy area for Sri Lanka Telecom PLC (SLT).

As the National Backbone Network implementer, a major contributor of SEA-ME-WE 5 submarine cable network and the first and only FTTH service provider in Sri Lanka the telco takes a forward looking approach to building next generation networks

Broadband World Forum: Hi Rajiv, can you give me a little background on yourself and Sri Lanka Telecom?

Rajiv: I work as the Service Assurance Engineer of Sri Lanka Telecom PLC, and am responsible for the service restoration of PSTN, CDMA, LTE, leased-lines, IPTV, ADSL, VDSL, FTTH and Wi-Fi. I plan the FTTx network expansion, public Wi-Fi network implementation and network quality improvement in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Prior to my present role, I served as the CDMA Core Network Operations Engineer of the Sri Lanka Telecom and as a demonstrator of the Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.

BBWF: Please give us a little bit of information on broadband penetration in the country and what SLT’s objectives are. How many customers have fibre, and what kind of fibre products do you offer?

Rajiv: In a country where the mobile penetration outnumbered the population by a considerable margin, broadband penetration has just passed 30%. With the vision of connecting all Sri Lankans seamlessly with world-class information, communication and entertainment services, SLT has taken multiple steps to provide broadband solutions through multiple access technologies including ADSL2+, VDSL2, LTE and FTTH.

The main idea behind the deployment of FTTH is to cater the requirement of a special market segment that got the hunger for a higher bandwidth, such as software application developers, online gamers, and heavy downloaders. The network is continuously expanding and the demand is growing together with the customer base.

We offer triple play services including voice, broadband and IPTV to all our wireline customers and having the access to the customer through a secure, ultra-speed and reliable path, we are ready to add more value in the future through all currently available and upcoming IoT as well as the AR & VR developments.

BBWF: What are the translatable benefits of upgrading to next generation networks? Given the time and huge investment is it worth it?

Rajiv: There are several main advantages of upgrading the legacy networks to NGN. Firstly, it will reduce the operational cost considerably and recent research has shown it would be somewhere around 30%. Secondly, it will boost the development of new services by reducing the Time To Market (TTM). It is true that there will be a huge capital investment but it will be paid off if it is made timely with the right pace, enabling a smooth transition. But Communication Service Providers (CSPs) should have a plan on when to adopt, when to change and what comes next.

BBWF: What are the downsides of not upgrading to next generation networks?

Rajiv: The obvious downsides would be the loss of market share, narrow downed revenue streams, out dated services, increased customer dissatisfaction, lower reliability and more. It is acceptable to keep your legacy network based on following conditions. First, you live in a country where your subscribers do not demand services which you cannot provide in your network. Secondly, you do not have forerunning competitors who have or willing to adopt NGN services in next couple of years. Finally, in an era where the manufacturers of legacy equipment do not provide technical assistance, if you are confident of having expert knowledge and hardware, that will allow you to survive in the market for at least another 3 years.

BBWF: Do you see opportunities to increase ARPU (average revenue per user) as you improve the network? Any examples you wish to share?

Rajiv: Yes. The network improvement allows you to add more value to the services you provide to your customer. It can be in the form of bandwidth enhancement, delivering a newer service or improved Quality of Experience (QoE). If the bandwidth is enhanced, the customer may utilize more data and at the end of the day may go for a package enhancement or to purchase more data or bandwidth. If a newer service is delivered, that will open up a new revenue stream as well. Enhanced QoE will make your customer more loyal and he/she will tend to buy more services from you in the future. In all these cases, there is a positive impact on ARPU which makes you more profitable.

BBWF: What technologies will be key for meeting capacity demands?

Rajiv: Technologies such as FTTH, G.Fast, VDSL2 and LTE would be the key technologies which will pave the way on meeting capacity demands. ADSL2+ will also be a potential candidate but for the applications which require a higher uplink bandwidth this may not be ideal.

BBWF: Where do you see the implementation of optical networking having the most impact in the APAC region?

Rajiv: If you look at the average and the peak connection speeds of the countries in the APAC region, as per the Akamai state of the internet report of 2016 Q3, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan are among the top 10 in the world. These are the countries which have most developed optical infrastructure in the APAC region and the figures are just a mirror image of that development. No matter if you are providing a wired or a wireless broadband solution, the fiber network will be there at some point.

BBWF: Can the network keep up with customer demand and how will this demand evolve?

Rajiv: The capacity of fiber is unimaginable. Unlike in the metallic cable networks, the capacity of fiber networks is increasing at a rapid pace. What you need to change is most probably the end equipment. As the demand grows, the CSP should closely monitor the demand and plan the growth strategy more effectively. IoT, AR & VR, OTT applications and smart concepts can be considered as the drivers of current and future demands.

BBWF: What’s next for Sri Lanka Telecom?

Rajiv: We have started to provide IoT services and much more to come in next couple of years.

BBWF: What are you looking forward to most at Broadband Forum Asia co-located with NGON Asia?

Rajiv: We look at this forum as a place where we can share our expertise and knowledge with our global counterparts in a more productive manner. It will expose us to the modern and upcoming technologies, strategies adopted by our regional peers, and making relationships which will offer mutual benefits in the future.

BBWF: That’s great, we look forward to seeing and hearing you speak. Thank you.

Rajiv Weragama will be speaking at Broadband Forum Asia co-located with NGON Asia, 11-12th April at the Crowne Plaza, Kowloon East, Hong Kong.

Book your conference pass today to avoid disappointment. Asia Pacific operators go free.

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