By Cheranka Mendis
With mobile penetration directly linked to increasing economic growth in a country, Sri Lanka with its bullish growth prospective stands to benefit heavily from the ever-expanding ICT and telecommunication sector.
Alcatel-Lucent Asia Pacific President Rajeev Singh-Molares who was in Sri Lanka for a brief visit yesterday told the media that a World Bank study done some 10 years ago showed that for every 10% increase in mobile penetration, GDP growth of 1% was recorded.
“Sri Lanka is well on the way to get 100% penetration of mobile. We use phones much more than we did few years ago. We use it not just for talking but for a variety of other activities such as finance, commerce, education, healthcare, etc,” Singh-Molares said. He also holds the title of Chairman at the World Economic Forum’s Global ICT Agenda.
“We believe mobile broadband has to be an important part of the growth plan of any government and especially for Sri Lanka in the vision to be a globally competitive industry. Playing an important part of that would be the broadband and the mobile broadband industry.”
“But is this relationship between GDP and mobile growth fixed, or can we accelerate it?” he questioned. “According to a model developed by Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs and the World Economic Forum, with the right combination of actions and investment, we can accelerate the impact of mobility by as much as 36%, measured in GDP.”
The developed model predicts how mobile policies, applications, technology, and economics can impact the future. The team is said to have established that while mobile broadband is a good thing for economic and social growth, when combined with the right applications it gets even better.
“Mobility is about a lot more than being able to move around with a phone. It is about giving people access to services, information and markets. In short it is about giving people the ability to do more.”
“I am bullish about the growth prospects for Sri Lanka,” said Singh-Molares.
Referring to a conversation had with local industry players in Sri Lanka, he stated that there is a consensus that the Government needs a blue print, a vision for broadband Sri Lanka. “What is the country going to look at, how is it going to position itself; that is the question. By doing this effectively the country can create a lot of high quality jobs.”
“For Sri Lanka there are two key questions that need answers. How and when we deploy 4G also known as the next generation and about connecting fixed broadband in big cities,” he said.
4G has been launched in certain parts of Asia such as Japan and Hong Kong, and in US during last summer. It is said to have maintained spectacular growth in certain parts of Europe. However the technology has not been introduced in countries such as China, India and Sri Lanka.
“However, in Sri Lanka there is now a debate on when to introduce this etc. Sri Lankan consumer is going to be used to very fast speed. This is inevitable. Every country has this, when they get used to high quality they get used to it they need better speed,” Singh-Molares said.
The incremental cost for 4G infrastructure is lot lower than 3G infrastructure, he acknowledged stating that the reason behind this is that it is more efficient and that it overlays on existing infrastructure. The other question is that concentration should not be fixed in just mobile brand but in fixed broadband in big cities. The cost associated might be a slowing down factor, he noted. “Sri Lanka needs to do more,” he expressed, “but the good news is that Sri Lanka is following the pattern in Asia; they are not far behind or ahead”.
Alcatel-Lucent has been in the Sri Lankan market for over three decades and was the hands behind installing and introducing the first digital switch in the country. They are key supplier to the major operators in the country having installed end-to-end 2G and 3G mobile networks. Alcatel-Lucent has also connected Sri Lanka to the rest of the world by installing the South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe undersea cable network.
Alcatel-Lucent Managing Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives Upendra Samaratunge added that Alcatel-Lucent Sri Lanka has doubled its revenues in Sri Lanka YoY.
“We see huge potential in 2012 and beyond in Sri Lanka, not only in telecommunications but in the public sector such as railways and public safety where Alcatel-Lucent’s portfolio of products and services can play a major role,” he said.
The biggest growth in deploying 3G network has been for Etisalat, Samaratunge said. “We also work with other players in Sri Lanka.”
“Alcatel-Lucent innovations are powering the mobile broadband networks of the future. Innovations such as lightRadio, which compresses the base station into a cube that fits in your hand; A next generation Network processor called FP3 that deliver 400 Gigabits-per-second IP transmission speeds - four times faster than existing technology – will allow the delivery of cost effective broadband and fuel growth in the digital economy,” Singh-Molares noted.