Recently there was a letter by Mr Chanuka Wattegama published in the Business Times (BT-November 7) headlined ‘Expert views on Telecom Charges’ in relation to ADSL, IPTV and issues relating to the SLT lines, comments of which are inaccurate.
For example SLT Chairman Nimal Welgama says according to a report published in the BT on November 7 that; “in line with our strategic growth plan, the fixed broadband customer base recorded very strong growth of 40% and which is over 56,000 customers YoY, and has recently passed the milestone of 200,000 customers.”
What is important in this regard is not the 800,000 working lines cited by Mr Wattegama (in the letter) but the total installed capacity of the network i.e. the working lines and that available for expansion.
The TRC, the sector repository for this information should have periodically published the data. As per annual reports and nominal design criteria this capacity should be of the order of two million .
The excerpt reveals that there are 200,000 fixed broadband customers i.e. ADSL and IPTV. Neither the report nor the articles on the subject published later give a breakdown of the ADSL and IPTV customers.
An unnamed SLT source says that the ADSL and IPTV connections are around 125,000 and 25,000, respectively – revealing that Sri Lanka is lagging behind several countries in the region despite the fact that it was the first in the region to liberalize the sector with a lead of nearly six years.
The foregoing reveals that on average over 90% of the available capacity has been idling for nearly a decade. That this idling capacity has zero shelf value is common knowledge. It needs to be utilized much before its life span expires. Every moment of delay would escalate its usage costs.
Mr Wattegama says that the ‘copper wire is not ubiquitous here as in UK’ . Ubiquity of a network resource in the argot of networking economy means that at any given locality, its availability exceeds that of all other options . In practice the availability of these options such as wireless access are nil at most locations but yet the available copper wire bandwidth remains unutilized even as dry connections despite ADSL is the cheapest of the options.
The other reasons adduced by Mr Wattegama to refute unbundling show his unawareness of market opportunities available.
He has refrained from revealing improvements of markets which have liberalized the loop for competition, speed and pricewise, driving up average speeds close to 6 Mb/s. a feature vital for Sri Lanka to leapfrog to regional hub status. The SLT’s ADSL average speed is over tenfold less.
The Mahinda Chintana aims to make Sri Lanka the Regional Information Hub. It’s thus important to preserve and protect the right to information and safeguards against disinformation The TRC to foster its accomplishment unswervingly should convene a forum to enable professionals with experience to deliberate these imperatives in particular the role of the copper wire, NGN access networks , sector specific public goods, net neutrality, etc, vital to speedily accomplish the Mahinda Chintana.
Formerly of the ITU and retired Director General -Telecom Authority
(This correspondence is closed)