Sri Lanka possesses world class Telecom Infrastructure Sharing Management application – Infosoft CEO
Speaking to Daily News Business, Dissanayake said that Infrastructure sharing is a process where two or more operators share different infrastructure in a particular site as a mechanism for lowering costs of network development, quality of service improvement and rapid network expansion while at same time creating a positive environment impact with good economic sustainability. This may also enhance competition among mobile operators.
There are two basic categories of mobile infrastructure sharing: passive and active. Passive infrastructure sharing refers to the sharing of physical space, for example by buildings, tower sites and masts, where networks remain separate. Collection of passive equipment in one structure for mobile telecommunications is generally referred to as a “site”.
Agreements by one or many operators to put their equipment on the same structure such as a tower, a roof or a cabin, is called “site sharing” or “collocation”. Several elements of the passive infrastructure can be shared, as well as facilities such as the power supply, generator, fuel and air conditioning.
The growth and the expansion of mobile telecommunication networks depends on key support infrastructure centered on availability of continued power supply. Power supply plays a major role in running the mobile network with a benchmark network uptime of 99.97% in order to maintain the reliability and quality of service.
Operators have to keep their networks running on a continuous basis 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, regardless of utilization. Demand for service may drop to zero during night hours on certain sites, but operators have no option to switch the site off during these hours as they can’t predict subscriber movements. Power supply from the grid is a major concern in most countries and has affected telecommunication operations in terms of costs, reliability and efficiency.
A large percentage of the sites are off grid and usually powered by diesel generators with huge operational expenditure (OPEX). Even the remaining grid connected sites could also experience poor quality power supply and outages lasting a few hours, said CEO of Infosoft.
Considering the various challenges facing the telecommunication sector which are confronted by the unprecedented network infrastructure issues, diesel theft, equipment theft, vandalization and increasing operational expenditure (OPEX) and capital expenditure (CAPEX) costs as well as the demanding network coverage optimization, if all network operators in Sri Lanka share Infrastructure properly, it will be an effective and reliable way of lowering capital and operating expenditure, expanding coverage into new and less populated areas while achieving expected customer service targets.
In addition, infrastructure sharing plays an essential role in facilitating environmental protection, reducing resource consumption, increasing efficiency and achieving sustainable growth, Dissanayake said.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: Your general perspectives of the industry and communication companies in Sri Lanka?
A: The telecommunication and information services are key growth components within the services sector and delivered steady growth in 2019. Revenue from the ICT sector amounted to over one billion in 2019, about 15 percent growth over the previous year. In 2018, the country initiated the process of adopting fifth generation (5G) technology. Sri Lanka is building a national fiber network linked to numerous international cables. This network, built and managed by Sri Lanka Telecom, will serve as the backbone for fixed, broadband and mobile services, including 5G.
The market is now preparing to move from 4G to 5G mobile services. Dialog Axiata conducted pre-commercial 5G trials during 2019, and Dialog has thus far repurposed over 20% of its LTE antennas for 5G compatibility.
Sri Lanka’s IT and BPO sector doubled the workforce and tripled exports in a matter of five years, from 2015 to 2020. The sector grew rapidly from 2015 to 2020 with current exports at over $1 billion, making it one of the highest growth areas in the economy and the fifth largest export segment.
Sri Lanka is also emerging as a global IT Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) destination of choice in several key areas. We were ranked 25th among the top 50 global outsourcing destinations in 2019 by world renowned US consulting firm Kearney.
Our telecom sector in Sri Lanka is one of the country’s most dynamic sectors, contributing significantly, both directly and indirectly, to investment, employment, productivity, innovation, health, education and overall economic growth during and before COVID-19 pandemic. Sri Lanka’s telecommunication market used to be overcrowded, with five mobile operators serving a population of 22 million. Number reduced to four mobile operators in Sri Lanka after Hutch merged with Etisalat.
The telecom sector in Sri Lanka is responsible for substantial foreign direct investment (FDI). Telecom use has been rising, and the total fixed line and mobile telephone density has increased to 142 per 100 persons led by an increase in mobile subscribers.
The demand for basic voice services appears to have reached the saturation point. The mobile-telephone operators dominate the sector. The continued expansion in infrastructure has enabled a sophisticated level of telecommunication services islandwide.
There is significant competition among the existing operators. The two mobile operators Infosoft deals with Dialog Axiata and Hutch are proactive and very well managed. Dialog Axiata was the first to implement tower sharing when Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya was the CEO. Excellent strategies and leadership of Hutch CEO Thirukumar Nadarasa resulted in delivering a very good network and attractive value propositions to all Sri Lankans.
Sri Lanka is connected to South East Asia, Middle East and West Europe with submarine cable systems linking South East Asia to Europe via the Indian Sub-Continent and Middle East. The projects aim to take these regions to the forefront of global communication by significantly increasing the bandwidth and global connectivity of users along its route between Singapore and France. Those fiber optic cables collectively provide a bandwidth capacity of 28 terabits per second. This submarine cable system offers Sri Lanka a massive bandwidth advantage and paves the way to make Sri Lanka a globally competitive business hub, bringing more capabilities to Sri Lanka’s telecommunication and IT sector.
Q: What type of service does your company provide?
A: Infosoft exists to deliver customer driven innovative customized software for corporate sector. We build and deliver great products and services that transform business and make life simple for our customers. Our talented staff committed to do this every day. We take complete responsibility for building, customizing, implementation and supporting our enterprise solutions for each customer to guarantee long term success.
Q: What is Infosoft’s unique product?
A: We have come out with quite a few exciting products over the years. But our world class Infrastructure Sharing Management System with automated billing is our unique product. It is a game changer for telcos and tower companies.
Q: What is the concept behind ISMS?
A: Our team has an excellent understanding of tele-infra sharing processes and we embed our client’s management workflows and processes to our product. So, the end product we deliver to our clients would not be a product but a fully customized application. The state of the art billing module adds immense value to clients.
Q: How do telecommunication and tower companies benefit from your product?
A: Infosoft ISMS integrates all aspects of site management and sharing into one enterprise product except site construction aspect. That too can be developed and integrated depending on client requirements. ISMS creates a centralized management system to provide a broad spectrum of valuable data for company staff and management to make important decisions accurately without delay with confidence.
Automated workflows for telecom tower sharing operations create a highly efficient and transparent management process. Invoice errors will be a thing of the past with automated customer billing. It will minimize disputes and inefficiencies of tower sharing revenue and provide fast and accurate responses to infrastructure planning (site rollout and sharing). It is a game changer for telecom infrastructure sharing.
Energy costs account for over 30% of total operational expenditure for a large mobile network operator. A proper auditable detailed fuel and power utilization information management is extremely important for telcos. All efficient senior management thrive on fuel and power management efficiency and transparency. ISMS will help telecommunication companies reduce fuel theft and electricity misuse and save large sums of money which will result in higher profits.
Q: Which telecom companies use Infosoft ISMS in Sri Lanka?
A: Our current clients are Dialog Axiata and Hutch.
Q: Tell us your experience with Dialog Axiata and Hutch?
A: Dialog Axiata (then Dialog Telekom) was the first to start infrastructure sharing business in Sri Lanka. That helped them to grab a big chunk of the tele infrastructure sharing market share. We developed a dialog telecom infrastructure management system (TIMS) more than 10 years ago.
But it was not without obstacles. Mobitel launched the Upahara discount package soon after our project started. All mobile operators suffered severe revenue drops as they matched Mobitel discounts. As a result of Upahara, Dialog wanted to cancel the project. I met Dialog CEO Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya to request him to allow us to continue the project with delayed payments. In the end he decided to continue the project. TIMS was a major success at Dialog and they still use the product. Few years later Dialog parent company Axiata wanted to deploy TIMS at Celcom Malaysia, Robi (Bangladesh) and Smart Mobile (Cambodia).
Hutch – Etisalat merger in 2018 resulted in Hutch owning a large tower network in Sri Lanka. Hutch Sri Lanka and directors of Hutchison Asia Telecom Group in Hong Kong chose Infosoft to develop a heavily customized application after that. We provided Hutch SL with an up-to-date modern application loaded with BI and mobility. The Hutch team is well managed and its infrastructure business and other segments will boom for sure. Having an efficient telecom infrastructure sharing sector is good for telecommunication companies, government and the citizens.
Q: Didn’t Mobitel approach Infosoft?
A: They did a few years ago. All except one divisional head were very keen on getting our application. They even appointed a three man committee to steer the project. But it did not happen in the end.
Q: How much foreign currency can a country save by promoting local IT solutions and products?
A: Most large-scale projects can’t be done with just the local companies or local products. But by maximizing local contribution and local expertise, we can implement large scale projects at a far lower cost. It not only saves foreign currency but also increases ROI and project sustainability.
Q: What are your future expansion plans?
A: Like any other application provider, we continuously strive to offer new features to continuously add value to the client through the application. Preventive maintenance, advanced remote data capturing, IoT and are some of the plans.
Q: We heard that you were a very good cricketer during your school days at Wesley College and after leaving school. Tell us about it?
A: I took part in Cricket, Badminton and Athletics at school. My cricket contribution was the most significant of them all. I was the opening bowler of the school cricket team from U12 to the First XI and I captained all age groups and captured over 400 wickets during my school career. Master in Charge of Cricket Animal De Silva told me that I was the highest wicket taker in Wesley’s 140+ years of cricket history. I was also privileged to be in championship winning teams of all age groups from U12 to First XI. No one has achieved that feat at Wesley.
They say that the golden years of Sri Lankan school cricket were in 1984 and 1985. Those two years produced 12 national cricketers including Roshan Mahanama, Asanka Gurusinghe, Aravinda de Silva, Hashan Tillekeratne, Don Arunasiri, Marlon Von Haught, Gamini Wickramasinghe, Sanjeewa Weerasinghe, Kapila Wijegunawardena, Kaushik Ameleen, Roshan Jurangpathy and Nishantha Ranatunga. There were a dozen other equally talented players who did not get selected from ‘84 and ‘85. Our Wesley team was chosen as the Best School Cricket Team by a panel of umpires and SLSCA in 1985.
In my first match as U13 Captain, I managed to take all ten wickets in an inning against DSS. The last to get out was Hashan Tillekeratne.
We used lesser quality cricket balls those days due to lack of funds. One day a famous Wesley cricketer (Sarath Wickramaratne) gave us two kookaburra balls to use for the first time in our life. I managed to break the school bowling record twice (7/34 and 7/31) in a single game against the star-studded Nalanda First XI team in 1985. I am so fortunate that Wesley College and staff gave me all those opportunities for a next to nothing school fee.
Moratuwa SC was my Sara Trophy club for a short period before I went to Australia for tertiary education. During that season (In 1986) I was chosen as the Bristol Trophy’s U25 Best Bowler with an average of 6.75.