Qualcomm, Dialog Telekom & USAID partner for high-speed rural wireless data

Qualcomm is launching its Wireless Reach initiative in Sri Lanka by opening a Last Mile Initiative centre in Wennappuwa. The centre, known as Easy Seva, is one of 15 that will be launched in the country with support from Qualcomm, Dialog Telekom, the US Agency for International Development, the National Development Bank and Synergy Strategies Group...

Qualcomm, which develops advanced wireless technologies and data solutions, is launching its Wireless Reach initiative in Sri Lanka by opening a Last Mile Initiative (LMI) centre in Wennappuwa, Sri Lanka. The centre, known as Easy Seva, is one of 15 that will be launched in the country with support from Qualcomm, Dialog Telekom, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Development Bank (NDB) and Synergy Strategies Group (SSG).

Through a bulk purchase package of equipment, software, content and services, all these organisations have created a new, market-driven approach to establish rural community-based centres. The centres will in turn carry the name of the unique Easy Seva brand and are expected to provide unprecedented quality of service to the communities they serve.

Quite simply, the goal of the Easy Seva centres is to develop entrepreneurs in the Information Communications Technology (ICT) sector in Sri Lanka by deploying 3G mobile broadband Internet service at village level and enabling the latter to offer access to affordable ICT-enabled services and content. The centres are enabled with 3G mobile broadband connectivity based on Dialog's HSDPA network. They will employ an innovative franchise approach, which will aim to create a profitable and sustainable business model for extending ICT services and connectivity to rural consumers.

"We are very pleased to be partnering with Dialog Telekom and USAID on our Wireless Reach initiative to empower rural communities in Sri Lanka," said Kanwalinder Singh, president of Qualcomm India and SAARC. "We congratulate Dialog Telekom for being the first operator in the SAARC region to launch HSDPA for rural applications. It reaffirms that 3G HSDPA has the versatility to deliver next-generation services to all consumers, rural and urban, while offering a compelling business opportunity for operators and rural entrepreneurs."

The Easy Seva centres also will help rural residents to acquire employment skills through online training, explore new job opportunities, and receive micro-loans and other banking services, as well as call relatives and friends overseas at low rates. The centres use a unique private sector model to facilitate financial sustainability with an innovative, highly-standardised package of equipment, services, training and market support for the franchisees called the "Easy Seva Franchise in a Box." By standardising these offerings, the franchise model will reduce barriers to entry while simultaneously reducing operating costs for the franchisees.

"Dialog Telekom is delighted to be a partner in the Last Mile Initiative Project which demonstrates and validates the use of advanced 3G HSDPA technology to bridge information and communication divides facing rural communities," said Dr Hans Wijayasuriya, Chief Executive, Dialog Telekom. "It is truly rewarding to see a cutting edge technology such as 3G HSDPA delivering socio-economic dividends where they are most needed, at such an early stage in the technology life cycle. We look forward to working with Qualcomm and USAID in scaling up the penetration of HSDPA-powered ICT centres in order to harness the benefits of 3G technology towards the betterment of Sri Lankan lives."

"Broadband connectivity and ICT technologies are important tools for socio-economic progress in developing countries," said Rebecca Cohn, USAID/Sri Lanka mission director. "We believe that these centres will empower rural communities in Sri Lanka by providing them access to global opportunities and perspectives."

The Last Mile Initiative in Sri Lanka was initiated by the USAID and is being implemented by SSG and Infoshare. It is supported by a number of leading high-profile international and local partners. Qualcomm, through its Wireless Reach initiative, will be responsible for providing funds to upgrade 3G HSDPA base stations and for the purchase of equipment for the centres. Qualcomm will also provide technical support for technology analysis, as well as assist in obtaining equipment pricing from vendor partners. Local access to the centres is provided via Dialog Telekom's 3G Network, featuring data speeds in excess of 1.4 Mb/s based on the HSDPA technology.

In addition to the provision of Last Mile access, HSDPA terminals and end-user equipment, Dialog Telekom will also provide Internet backbone infrastructure and access, a SIM card-based electronic payment mechanism co-developed with the National Development Bank, VOIP-based low-cost communications, distance education facilities and help desk facilities for the provision of operational and technical support.

* Dialog Telekom plc is the largest mobile operator in Sri Lanka, with more than 3.5 million subscribers, representing approximately 60% market share. Dialog Telekom is a subsidiary of the Telekom Malaysia Group. The company provides Internet services through the Dialog Internet ISP, and also operates Dialog SAT, a mobile satellite service.

** EazyServ, is a US-based holding company established by Synergy Strategy Group, and describes itself as a revolutionary new way to bridge the Digital Divide in rural communities in developing countries. The company combines an innovative business model to deliver high-quality, low-cost voice, data, health, training and financial services to consumers in rural Asia. By treating the rural poor as customers to be served rather than beneficiaries of foreign aid, EazyServ is confident it is transforming communities and improving lives.

*** USAID is the international development arm of the US government. From field offices around the world, it supports long-term and equitable economic growth and advances US foreign policy objectives by supporting: economic, agriculture and trade growth; global health; education, democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance in developing countries.

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