Current telecommunication infrastructure


The scenario investigated by the author is the current telecommunication infrastructure in Sri Lanka, a country situated in South-east Asia. The country at present has four fixed- access operators, five mobile operators with over 13 million mobile subscribers and nearly four million fixed-line subscribers.

Sri Lanka has a liberalised telecommunication sector however; an informal monopoly is maintained by the state telecom operator Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) in the fixed wire-line sector. It is also one of the largest Internet Service providers in the island due to its increased reach.

The problem has been identified as how to develop Sri Lanka's telecommunication infrastructure to increase the standard of living of its citizens and improve the economy of the island nation.

The final aim of this investigation is to design and implement a better, more robust telecommunication infrastructure that will complement economic development and well-being of the population. One must estimate the futuristic demands for telecom services in order to design a stable infrastructure that will supply ample capacity and load bearing techniques as well as other factors that contribute to a good telecommunication network.

Therefore, the author has planned to study the current telecommunication infrastructure that is used by state and private operators - with more emphasis on the state telecommunication infrastructure - to ascertain its strengths and weaknesses. One needs to study whether the telecom sector has capitalized on its strengths and is making an effort to move forward in order to assist in economic development and standard of living of the citizens of the island.

It is also relevant to probe whether the weaknesses of the structure have resulted in setbacks in economic activity in the island.

The island's geography will also affect the plans for development and expansion of telecom technology and infrastructure. Therefore, the terrain must be taken into consideration when necessary plans are drawn to modernize the current network.

Study the prospect of implementing a telecom network that uses up-to-date technology so that the network will be suited for the future with minimum amount of modernization in time to come.

Through this project, the author plans to understand the mechanics of consultancy and gain knowledge about telecommunication infrastructure, its products, services, strengths and weaknesses.

This will also be beneficial in learning project planning, information gathering and project implementation.

Literature Review

The essence of this literature review is the dissection of ideas borne by the ICT community in Asia -specifically Sri Lanka- on telecommunication infrastructure, its modernization and its commitment to the alleviation of the standard of living of the citizens of Sri Lanka.


According to LIRNEasia, a regional information and communication technology (ICT) policy and regulation think tank active across the Asia Pacific, telecommunication technology coupled with capital inflow and services is one of the major contributors to economic development.

Telecommunication is one of the largest contributors to the growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Sri Lanka. The government benefits from its substantial revenues in the forms of returns on its 49.5% investment in the sector.

The island nation of Sri Lanka has over 20 million in population divided into three categories: urban, rural and estate. The majority of population - 72.4 percent of the total - is rural, 21.5 percent is urban while 6.3 percent falls into the estate category which consists of tea estate workers in the central hills of the island (3).

Figure 2-1 displays the population spread over the island. The darker shades along the western border where capitol Colombo is situated, is heavily populated along with the central hills and the south-western region.

Towards the north and the east of the island, which is the dry zone, is sparsely populated owing to a three-decade terrorist conflict which culminated in the military capture of land that was considered a de-facto nation by the terrorists.

Along the rest of the island, the heavily populated areas have robust telecommunication infrastructure thanks to the assortment of cellular, wireless and wireline operators that provide telecommunication services to the citizens of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan telecommunications sector was liberalized in 1996 and at present, there are three fixed wireline and wireless operators -state owned Sri Lanka Telecom(SLT), LankaBell and Suntel - five cellular operators -Dialog Telekom, Tigo, Hutch, Mobitel and Bharti Airtel- and 30 licensed external gateway operators in the island. There are over 3.4 million fixed telephone connections and over 11.7 million cellular connections in the island. The telecommunication infrastructure has been influenced by international telecommunication conglomerates such as NTT-Japan, Telecom Malaysia, Telstra - Australia, Hutchison Whampoa- Hong Kong and Telia, the national telecom operator of Sweden.(2)

Sri Lanka's telecommunication sector, with an annual growth rate of 30-35 percent saw an increase of operators to 77 in 2006, from 40 in 2004.

Telecommunications Infrastructure


The wireline telecommunication infrastructure that is in use is a microwave copper pair network. The transport network deploys optical fibers to connect the land network to the undersea international cable. The copper provides the islanders with speeds up to 56Kilobits per second (Kbps) on Dial-up and 512Kbps on Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) mode over the network.

Sri Lanka still ponders the process of setting up a fiber network to link major cities therefore, it can be said the whole telecommunication transport network is predominantly copper. The switching stations are digital and the state operator has planned to upgrade to NGN (Next Generation Networks) switches in the near future.(4)

The internetwork is connected to the regional undersea fiber optic cables SEA-ME-WE 3 of 40Gbps and SEA-ME-WE 4 of 160 Gbps.(4)


The wireless network has utilized CDMA technology to provide homes with telecommunication and internet access.

The technology in use is CDMA2000 1x, the core CDMA2000 wireless air interface standard. The designation '1x' means 1 times Radio Transmission Technology. The peak data rate of each 1.25 MHz RF (Radio Frequency) carrier is around 307Kbps and it supports supplemental channels with a wide range of data rates. (6)

The state operator has rolled out the CDMA network in 800MHz to reach citizens in rural areas of the island and is in the process of increasing the number of towers in rural and estate areas of the island.(4)


Sri Lanka's cellular technology in use is GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) 900/1800 MHz band with network transmission towers situated round the country. (5)

The local services providers Dialog Telekom, Tigo, Hutch and Mobitel have ownership of their own transmission towers while the Indian operator Bharti Airtel is in agreement with the local operators to share towers in order to reduce roll-out costs.(5)

Apart from GSM technology, the cellular operators provide Third Generation (3G) 2100 MHz services in the western rim of the island where the capitol is situated. (5)

Though wireline, wireless and cellular telecommunication infrastructure is available throughout the island with basic telecommunication facilities available to rural population, high speed data transmission is available only within the capitol, the suburbs and in chosen pockets of the island. It is evident from studying coverage maps, the North-central and the eastern rim of the island is not well covered compared to the rest of the island due to the terrorist conflict.

The availability of modern telecom facilities of reasonable quality enables improved performance in all other sectors of the economy, which, in turn, generates higher revenues for the government. Prior to liberalization, the telecom sector was a drag on the rest of the economy; now, it is a driver.'(1)

Population and standard of living

According Sri Lanka's government department of statistics, by 2008, the 66,000 square Kilometer (sqKm) landmass had an average population density of 322 per sqKm.

The standard of living can be defined as the level of material comfort in goods and services available to a person. Therefore, a household with lesser income will enjoy a much lower level of material comfort compared to a household that is on the other end of the spectrum. The author has used the poverty indicator of two dollars per day as the level to gauge material comfort in Sri Lanka.

Subsequently, out of the total population, 41.6 percent earn less than two dollars per day in Sri Lanka. (7) However, it is evident that poverty is lesser in urban sector followed by the rural sector. Poverty is most prevalent in the estate sector owing to the lower socio-economic conditions.(8)

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country is correlated to the standard of living. A study of Sri Lanka's provincial GDP has revealed that provinces which are considered to house rural population output less than urban. Provinces that house estate population output much less than rural.

It is evident from the figures (see Figure 2-2) that western, north-western, southern and central provinces that are considered urban have higher GDP output than rest of the island. During the period of 2003 - 2007, the GDP output has not varied much on any of the provinces and it has not grown considerably in the provinces that are considered rural: Sabaragmuwa, Uva, Eastern, North Central and Northern.

GDP growth has been affected by the population in provinces. Citizens seeking higher wages and a better standard of living tend to crowd to the western province since the services and industry sector has not expanded into these rural provinces due to lack of resources such access to communication, power and transportation.

That is the reason the capitol has the highest population density of 3,330 persons per sqKm. And that is the driving factor for telecommunication service providers to introduce state-of- the-art services in the capitol and its suburbs.

GDP by sector

It is also evident from the figures (see Figure 2-3), industries in the urban provinces contribute most to the GDP. Another fact the table depicts is that industry and services, the sectors that rely on telecommunication infrastructure to conduct business, are dominant in these urban provinces.

Therefore one can summate, in order to increase the standard of living of the citizens of Sri Lanka, there must be necessary economic growth and that growth can be achieved through the expansion of industries and service-based industries in the island. Thus, the country needs to maintain and modernize the network of telecommunication infrastructure in rural as well as urban provinces.

'After much debate, it is now recognized that economic growth is a necessary condition for the alleviation of human misery. The relationship between the ability to communicate over distance using technological means and economic growth has been much discussed.'(1)

Provinces in Sri Lanka

At present, Sri Lanka's western province has the most advanced telecommunication network compared to all other provinces. The population in that province enjoys the highest standard of living in comparison.

Sri Lanka's fixed teledensity - the number of fixed lines per 100 persons - stood at 17.1 by 2008 while cellular teledensity was 71.9. Out of total, 36.4 percent of the teledensity was dispersed among the population in Colombo -the capitol - and its suburbs in the western rim of the island.

The population density is also highest in Colombo (standing at 3,330 persons per square Kilometer). The telephone use of households' average around 14.8 percent (of total households) for the whole island but the western province maintains a percentage of 26.0 percent while the rural eastern province has a mere nine percent.(7)

The statistics show, in order to increase the standard of living of its citizens, Sri Lanka needs to modernize and expand telecommunication infrastructure and offer more products and services conducive to economic development.

Therefore, this author will investigate the prospect of expanding the current telecommunication infrastructure into provinces of rural and estate population.

An analysis of the current telecommunication infrastructure must be conducted to ascertain its strengths and weaknesses and what strengths can be built upon, to achieve economic development and increased standard of living. When taking modernization into consideration, one must consider population growth patterns over geography to make maximum use of investment.

Some of the prospects that can be considered are the evolution from a copper based network to a fiber ring connecting provincial capitols. This will enable telecommunication service providers to add capacity, provide a larger bandwidth and ultimately connect more households.

The wireless CDMA coverage can also be expanded by commissioning more radio towers within the geography of the island but with the mountainous terrain will be a hindrance to its activity. Cellular network has also faced this dilemma. The only solution would be to increase the number of towers to blanket valleys and mountainous regions so that citizens would have uninterrupted coverage in all parts of the island.

Ultimately, this author has planned to draft modernization plans for the current telecommunication infrastructure to increase the standard of living for Sri Lanka's citizens and to contribute to economic development. The expansion and modernization plans that are considered will be subject to financially feasibility and sustainability tests.

Aims and objectives

Aim 1:

Study the current telecommunication infrastructure.


A1.O1: To critically analyse the current telecommunication infrastructure (wireline, cellular and wireless) in terms of technology, resources, products & services, reach and growth.

A1.O2: To study growth of telecommunication as a result of population spread in Sri Lanka and to evaluate how its spread over the geography of the island has enabled it to provide better products, services, increase value addition and improve its quality of service.

A1.O3: To analyse the financial aspects of the business: annual revenue, cost of technology, influence on the economy and other contributing factors.


Evaluate the contribution of telecommunication to the economy.


A2.O1: To analyse how the current telecommunication infrastructure and its subsequent growth has contributed to the development of the economy and in what aspect.

A2.O2: To investigate how this contribution has affected the positive or negative trends in the economy over a period of time.

A2.O3: To study whether contributions by telecommunication has led to any developments in the growth of population which, in turn has helped the growth of the economy.


Evaluate how the modernization will improve the economy and living standards of the people.


A3.O1: To study what areas of the economy will benefit from modernization of telecommunication infrastructure and how.

A3.O2: To probe how modernization of the infrastructure will benefit the living standards of the people, scope of business and economic environment and individual aspirations.

A3.O3: To evaluate what products & services, opportunities and strengths it can offer to through modernization to improve living standards.


Designs and plans for improvement, deployment of services based on locality, terrain and population.


A4.O1: To plan and design in detail, necessary improvements to infrastructure.

A4.O2: To probe how infrastructure can be set up to increase reach, by studying future estimates of population spread and terrain.

A4.O3: To evaluate and estimate the financial and business requirements for future expansion, improvement and deployment of telecom infrastructure.


The approach to the project will commence by studying the current telecommunication infrastructure that is in place throughout the island of Sri Lanka. The author has planned to lay emphasis on the state telecom operator -Sri Lanka Telecom- to enable a thorough examination of the infrastructure without being overwhelmed by too much information. It has been decided to contact the telecom operator to request all the necessary information useful to the current project.

The state telecom operator will be able to provide facts and figures on its operation and telecommunication infrastructure as well as information that would help the author to gain knowledge of the contribution the current telecommunication infrastructure and its products & services has been able to offer, to the citizens of Sri Lanka and the economy.

Once all these prerequisites have been fulfilled, the approach to the main topic of the project can be concluded.

The evaluation as well as investigations into the island terrain and population growth will leave this author in a position to plan necessary modifications to the current telecommunication infrastructure and choose appropriate technologies to expand telecommunication services to the rest of the island and rural communities.

The culmination of the project will be the modernization and design of appropriate telecommunication infrastructure that will benefit the living standards of the citizens of Sri Lanka.



  • Detailed designs and appropriate technologies to modernize current telecommunication infrastructure to help alleviate the living standards of citizens of Sri Lanka.
  • Estimation of population growth patterns and subsequent telecommunication expansion plans that are needed to accommodate future loads.
  • An overview of variety of services that can be introduced to the population with the modernization of the telecommunication infrastructure.


  • Focus on financially feasible technologies and telecommunication solutions so that unnecessary spending and wastage can be curbed.
  • Project's main focus must be maintained on telecommunication infrastructure modernization.


  • Loss of data and information: Perform timely backups and make copies on different storage media so that there is a backup copy of the project documents at anytime.
  • Delaying of requested data: If the need arises to contact any third parties in order to obtain information on telecommunication infrastructure and development, send requests well ahead of due dates so that there is enough time for re-requests or find necessary information through other means.

Work breakdown structure

Gantt chart


  1. Samarajiva, R. Zainudeen, A. (2008) ICT Infrastructure in Emerging Asia:Policy and Regulatory Roadblocks, SAGE Publications: India
  2. Sri Lanka Telecom the communication powerhouse, [Online], n.d. [accessed 07 December 2009].
  3. Your guide to Sri Lanka, [Online], n.d. [accessed 05 December 2009]
  4. Christie Alwis B.Sc (Eng)Hons(SL), FIE(SL), MIEE, CEng(Lond) (2009) Sri Lanka Connectivity, in, Optical Fiber Lectures of University of Sabaragamuwa 2009, pp.05-12. [Online], [accessed 09 December 2009]
  5. Sri GSM Coverage Maps, [Online], n.d. Available: [accessed 16 December 2009]
  6. Liangchi Hsu Cheng, M.W. Niva, I. (2003) 'Evolution towards simultaneous high-speed packet data and voice services: an overview of cdma2000 1EV-DV', in, Telecommunications, 2003. ICT 2003. 10th International Conference, IEEE, pp. 1313 - 1317 vol.2
  7. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (2008), Annual Report 2008, SPC:Colombo
  8. Vidyaratne, D.B.P.S (2008), 'New poverty statistics/indicators based on Household Income and Expenditue Survey 2006/2007', Surprises in Poverty Indicators

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