Industry Updates

'SAMENA Daily' - News

Sri Lanka’s 5G rollout likely to lag behind regional peers

Sri Lanka’s 5G rollouts are likely to lag behind the regional peers, due to the obstacles formed by the on-going economic crisis, uncertain political environment and recent hike in the Telecommunications Levy imposed on the operators.

Although the 5G rollouts were earlier expected to take place in the country this year and next year, with the leading telco operators moving for commercial deployment, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) is yet to hold to a spectrum auction, which would include the 5G-capable spectrum.

“Mobitel plans to invest US $ 100 million in its 5G networks and estimates US $ 15 million on 5G spectrum licences. Meanwhile, Dialog claims to be the first operator in South Asia to trial a 5G standalone network. However, Sri Lanka’s major economic crisis, uncertain political situation and an increase in the Telecommunications Levy from 11.25 percent to 15 percent for operators are likely to hamper the future 5G rollouts in Sri Lanka,” leading mobile analytics firm OpenSignal said in its latest Mobile Network Experience Report.

Meanwhile, the other regional countries, including India, are moving ahead to rollout 5G services within the next few months.

Although the previous government in its 2021 budget announced that the spectrum for 5G would be awarded within the following year, the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) pointed out that the plans of spectrum awards were mentioned in focusing on taxation and
revenue generation.

Meanwhile, the TRCSL did launch a consultation on its spectrum licensing framework in mid-2021 and submissions from industry members were made with taking steps to clear the spectrum along with discussions to release the 700 MHz spectrum to operators. However, the progress of these initiatives is yet to be publicised.

It is widely expected that the 3500 MHz band spectrum is to be awarded for 5G deployment. However, the GSMA noted that the TRCSL is yet to announce an award mechanism, lot sizes or fees, with the consultations of
telecom operators.

In addition, OpenSignal pointed out that more mobile spectrum remains crucial for improving mobile network quality in Sri Lanka, as experienced during the pandemic-related
lockdown period.

Theretofore, it said the TRCSL should ensure that the mobile operators are given sufficient spectrum to mobile services in order to deliver a strong 4G and 5G experience and meet the growing appetite for mobile internet usage in the country. (NF)