Business Times

Chinese firm clinches SLT and Mobitel expansion deals

By Bandula Sirimanna

Amidst stiff competition amongst Sri Lankan mobile operators to one-up each other in mobile broadband speeds, Sri Lanka Telecom PLC (SLT) is expanding coverage, capacity and network modernization of Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd under a massive investment of Rs.5 billion. The Board of Directors of SLT has decided to invest this money in equity of Mobitel for this purpose, a member of the SLT board told the Business Times.

He said that the awarding of this tender to ZTE Corporation of China (Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Company Ltd) by Mobitel as its technology partner to deploy this state-of-the-art “LTE (Long Term Evolution) Technology ready Next-Generation-Network” was done in a very transparent manner, although this company was not the lowest bidder. However SLT trade unions alleged that the deal had been arranged by CEO Greg Young using his influence. He was also behind the Rs.3 billion i- Sri Lanka project deal with the same Chinese company, they charged.

The new project is aimed at enhancing the fiber optic network in the island. The deal has been finalized at a meeting in Bentota attended by SLT CEO Greg Young, representatives of ZTE Company Ltd and some officials of the technical evaluation committee, they revealed. Mr Young was not available for comment.

Denying these allegations, an SLT board director who declined to be named, noted that “ZTE has been selected as the vendor for the two projects, as the equipment in both projects should be compatible and if they select another company for i-Sri Lanka, SLT will have to face technical problems”. The i-Sri Lanka project was launched recently to enhance, upgrade and expand the fiber network, bringing it closer to customers through fiber node.

He said this has reduced the length of the copper connections with a resultant significant increase in reliability, quality and broadband data speeds together with several other benefits such as low maintenance costs. Through this program the SLT plans to enhance the network bringing high speed broadband connectivity at greater than 20Mbps speed for almost all its fixed customers over a 3-year period.

In the new project Mobitel has signed a BOI agreement to trial and deploy an LTE Network as part of the company’s network expansion project and will enable Mobitel to import/purchase (locally) project-related items duty free. Its earlier i-Sri Lanka project didn’t come under the BOI.

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