Hutch Telecommunications Lanka (Hutch) has successfully deployed 4G services across the entire island of Sri Lanka.
Its coverage now extends to 90% of the country’s population – particularly as it has now merged Hutch’s 2G network with Etisalat Lanka’s 3G network after the two operators completed a merger in May 2019. Hutch is set to expand its network across the next three years with a US$200 million investment, having already funnelled US$100 million into its 4G coverage.
Chief executive officer Thirukumar Nadarasa said: “We can compete on an equal footing and on an equal coverage with our two main [competitors]. People in Sri Lanka need choice - I believe that Hutch would offer the choice to consumers who didn’t earlier have a true choice. They can choose what service or product they want to use and we are quite happy to offer more choice to the market.”
Hutch’s 4G network now extends across all of Sri Lanka’s 25 administrative districts, with rural coverage possible via the 900MHz band. Hutch CTO Dhana Ponnamperuma noted that the operator “more than double[d] its coverage in Colombo and its suburbs to 581 sites from 270 sites” following the merger with Etisalat.
The completion of its 4G network is bringing big changes for Hutch in terms of the voice and data services that it is able to offer. Nadarasa also confirmed that the operator will be offering post-paid tariffs for the first time in 20 years of operation.
The operator is now looking towards 5G, having last week been awarded a licence by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL). It is planning to conduct trials in the next three months using equipment from ZTE, although it is not yet targeting a commercial 5G launch.
Nadarasa noted: “Today, 50% of the people in the country don’t even have a smartphone. This is the problem. I think there are more fundamental issues in the country that we as mobile operators need to address before we get to 5G.”
He observed that the use cases for 5G were not yet applicable in the market, saying: “The question is what we can do with 5G that we cannot achieve with 4G. About 98% of what we want to do including e-commerce and e-government can be executed with 4G. We don’t need 5G to execute this. There are a few and limited applications such as driverless cars, remote surgeries for which we need 5G.”