Peter pan

Closing the connectivity gap in Sri Lanka

Group Strategy Director of edotco Group Sdn. Bhd. and Interim Managing Director of edotco Sri Lanka, Gayan Koralage, shares his take on what’s on the horizon for the telecommunications industry.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to becoming a top strategist in an award-winning Tower-Co multinational?

The highlight of my career has been leading the formation and growth of edotco – as a founding member since 2012 – which is now the 7th largest Tower-Co in the world, operating in eight Asian markets.

As Chief Strategy Officer of the edotco group, my role revolves around long term strategy, pricing and advertising, analysis, small M&A deals, new market entry, performance analysis and project management. In addition, I also hold the position of Acting Managing Director of edotco Sri Lanka to oversee the expansion of our business in this market.

My current role was preceded by my 8-year stint within the Axiata Group.

During this time, I oversaw financing projects, financing and investment initiatives across the TMI footprint, corporate turnarounds, end-to-end process management and negotiations as part of the TMI footprint. mergers and acquisitions for the Axiata group, as well as post-merger integration initiatives across Axiata. footprint in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Iran, Myanmar, Laos, East Timor, Maldives and Philippines.

I can proudly say that my success today is due to the solid foundation I gained during my studies at our own University of Sri Jayawardenapura, here in Sri Lanka. I graduated in BSC Accounting and Financial Management.

You are a founding member of edotco Group Sdn. Bhd. and currently responsible for the Group’s long-term strategy. Tell us about edotco and what kind of impact does edotco want to have in Sri Lanka?

The edotco group started its journey with 3 markets with 12,000 turns. Today, we operate in 8 markets with a portfolio of 40,000 towers. We are currently focused on expanding our presence in the Asian market through strategic organic and inorganic investments.

Unlike conventional tower companies which are generally limited exclusively to the rental of space on infrastructure sites, edotco has developed an operational niche for itself that goes beyond simple property management and encompasses a wider range. fully integrated service offerings ranging from custom site construction, infrastructure co-location, structural field maintenance, energy supply / management and even fiber resale. In addition, edotco is equipped to provide essential building solutions (“IBS”) and small cell deployments for 5G services to increase the filling and / or coverage needs of MNOs.

Also in the Sri Lankan market, we are pursuing steady growth as a key factor of connectivity, providing infrastructure services to telecom operators. The main objective of edotco Sri Lanka is to provide end-to-end ‘integrated infrastructure services’, including construction of passive infrastructure (lamp poles), operation and maintenance services, solutions energy and remote monitoring services for the telecommunications industry and other sectors that need it. services.

Given the current context where the world is experiencing exponential growth in the use of data over the past 20 months, as the general population continues to deal with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, as a supplier of infrastructure, we strongly believe that the backbone to enable such technological use should facilitate high-speed network connectivity. And at edotco, we continue this program relentlessly. For example, we completed 500 multipurpose pole locations in 2021, and we recently signed with the Sri Lanka Board of Investment to add more poles to our portfolio, with the aim of bridging the digital divide in the country, by connecting more unconnected and under-connected people.

Although the telecommunications industry is on the verge of a post-pandemic boom, we are seeing a lot of complaints on social media about current connectivity issues. What is your take on the large number of unconnected and under-connected users in the country?

The pandemic has changed almost every aspect of the way we live. For telecom customers, peak online hours have changed and remained so even after the pandemic. Subscribers have experienced per capita data consumption levels that are expected to arrive in 5 years, in just 20 months.

From the perspective of telecom operators, locations with high demand for generated data have also moved to under-explored territories. Telecom operators simply did not expect or ready to respond to this sudden increase and change in data requirements due to the shift from school and work to the place of origin. .

Therefore, the pandemic has exacerbated and highlighted the network gaps that already existed in the country. Given this lack of preparedness, many data consumers in Sri Lanka have remained unconnected and under-connected. This is the cause of the increase in complaints on social networks during and immediately after the pandemic.

How do you think edotco intends to bridge this digital divide?

As an independent infrastructure provider, edotco works with all mobile operators nationwide to avoid network overlaps and parallel sites, further reducing costs for operators and lowering the cost per GB for subscribers. edotco uses its in-house proprietary network analysis (NaPA) tool to identify gaps and work with MNOs and their network knowledge to strategically deploy multi-purpose smart poles to address black spots. edotco is also in partnership with town planning organizations and municipalities to build multi-use towers (smart advertising, electric vehicle charging, CCTV security, public Wi-Fi, environmental monitoring, etc.) and s’ ensure that they align with the aesthetic of the city. This is a long-term beneficial strategy for local communities by saving budgets on street lighting and other smart street and surveillance expenses.

Given the small footprint and low cost of these poles, deployment times are much shorter than traditional towers. There will be a need for big data in the future due to new technologies like IoT, machine to machine communication and smart cities etc. edotco is perfectly positioned to meet these demands with our versatile, rapidly deployable, aesthetically designed smart poles.

In a larger context, what does reducing the current connectivity gaps mean for Sri Lanka and its potential for economic development?

edotco has identified nearly 7,000 network capacity gaps on the island. These vacuums fall below the minimum requirement of a 5 Mbps download speed. Sri Lanka also lags behind in broadband coverage at 37% compared to 50% to over 90% in Asia.

In 2016, the United Nations recognized Internet access not as a mere privilege but as a basic human right. The vast array of opportunities, information and digital inclusion presented to connected communities is linked to improving the digital economy of any country. This is important because a World Bank study concluded that low- and middle-income countries experienced a 1.38% increase in GDP for every 10% increase in broadband coverage. Digitization can contribute to national GDP by minimizing the number of under-connected and unconnected Lankans, which in the long run will bring Sri Lanka onto the world stage as a viable competitor.