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Sri Lanka Equity Forum » Stock Market & Forum Help » Stock Market News » Sri Lanka's Etisalat in drive to push mobile internet

Sri Lanka's Etisalat in drive to push mobile internet

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Senior Vice President - Equity Analytics
Senior Vice President - Equity Analytics
Aug 21, 2012 (LBO ) - Dubai based Etisalat Sri Lanka unit, the island's third largest celco says it is pushing mobile broadband in a bid to increase internet penetration in the island though challenges remain for broader use.

Mobile broadband is one of the fastest growing sectors in telecoms in Sri Lanka where fixed access is shrinking and growth in voice mobile is slowing.
Data from Sri Lanka's telecom regulator shows that mobile internet users grew to 765,000 by end June 2012 from 485,000 in December 2011. In the same period fixed access users grew to 380,000 from 359,000.

Dumindra Ratnayake, chief executive at Etisalat Lanka says his firm will push internet penetration in the island further.

The firm plans to increase the penetration through smart phones and mobile devices.

"We had two ways to do it. One is penetrating through computers to make users the internet at homes and the other one is the mobile devices,” Rathnayake said.

"Today anyone who has the smart phone or a device is accessible to the Internet. So when we launch the internet facility we decided to go strongly with mobile devices with low cost, because we wanted to create that space."

Officials say there is a language barrier to faster internet use.
Etisalat says the language barrier has become a key problem for the people to use internet in the island even though Sri Lanka has high literacy rate and English is a widely used second language.

"Most of the searches in Google we have to type it in English but, many of the Sri Lankans would not have been comfortable in doing so," says Gamika De Silva, marketing manager of Etisalat Lanka.

"So the language is a key barrier."

Content in vernacular languages is however growing.

De Silva says some parents are also concerned about children using the internet and are questioning the need for internet use.

Adding to that he said, not recognizing the need of the internet and the fear the parents have towards the children using internet seize the expansion of the users.

"I remember long years ago some of the seniors in the organizations used to ask, do you really need internet," De Silva recalled.

“Also parents who knew about internet knew the world is there. They knew the knowledge has to be given to their kids but they were scared what internet can do to their kids, so those are the main factors which prevented the growth of internet in Sri Lanka.”

Etisalat, which says it has a mobile base of 3.5 million subscribers, offers child protection and parental control in Internet access products to its customers.

"Meanwhile, broadband related content service will be offered by Etisalat in Sinhala and Tamil, a move towards breaking language barriers and enhancing accessibility and availability for all," De Silva said.

According to Central bank of Sri Lanka, mobile subscribers grew 6.4 percent to 18.86 million in the first quarter of 2012, in country of 20 million people. In the last quarter of 2010, Sri Lanka's teledensity, or telephones per 100 people rose to 100.7.

The mobile market is shared between five operators, Malaysia's Axiata, UAE's Etisalat, Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel which is part owned by Malaysia's UT group, India's Airtel and Hutchison Telecom.

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