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Airtel offers newly structured, bundled package to local prepaid industry



By Neville Lahiru

Around the world, networking and telecommunications are constantly evolving as providers compete to claim the top spot in offering the best, most viable and affordable product, from facilitating a seamless networking experience, to ensuring easy accessibility with affordable pricing.

But to what extent do providers stick to this commitment of really giving the best of the best, especially in the prepaid industry?

A recent topic of discussion amongst prepaid users in Sri Lanka is the strategic segregation and pricing of reloads, with the revelation of deliberately leading customers into a vicious ‘reload trap’.

In a country that exceeds 29 million mobile connections and over 17 million broadband subscriptions (TRC Statistics, March 2021), mobile reloads are portrayed as offering so much more convenience to the average user, and many are convinced that they are getting the best deal out of their provider, through the plethora of data and voice bundles they can choose from.

Many local providers are offering monetary, data and other stipulated reload packages at attractive prices- but that’s all they really are, attractively priced. Looking closely at what’s going on, customers are essentially spending on average, 10-12 different prepaid packages to get access to different online applications and top-ups for voice which are available in smaller denominations (i.e. Rs.20, Rs.50, etc).

This trend of compartmentalising voice and data offerings is the prime cause for customers constantly topping up their accounts, as most customers’ purchasing behaviour is used to the current prepaid system. This trend has resulted in over three million reload cards being purchased a day, totalling a colossal 90 million a month.

Additionally, with the recent lockdowns around the country, it was clear that providers have also taken advantage by segregating their data offerings for work-from-home and online learning, another ‘best deal’ for customers to add to their monthly reload budget.

As well as the constant nag to check on their existing data and credit packages, and whether they need to get more reloads, the financial strain on customers through this pricing model is also irrefutably high to most, but instead of challenging the norms, they go with the flow in purchasing what is available to them in the current prepaid market. This clearly needs to change.

The basic notion of utilising a prepaid connection is to control and ease the financial and mental burden of customers by allowing them to purchase only what they need, when they need it. While the proposed freedom of choice is appealing, in reality, it is far from it. What needs to be understood by most is that the facility to stay connected and consume data is no longer a privilege or luxury- it is an essential.

Seeing the ‘essential’ aspect being incorporated as well as emphasis being placed on the need to facilitate users to stay connected with a solid network coverage for an affordable price, Airtel’s ‘4G Freedom Packs’ seem to be a step in the right direction for the sustainability of consumers, and the transparency of the telecommunications industry.

Airtel’s ‘4G Freedom Packs’ are designed from the ground up to offer four single market-disrupting rates which promise to cover the data, voice and SMS needs for an entire month, as per the user’s requirement.

With most of Sri Lanka’s prepaid customers who are used to the pre-existing reload offerings being unfamiliar with Airtel’s ‘4G Freedom Packs’, the perks of activating such a package far outweigh the concerns- if any. This refined product, while refreshing the prepaid industry, essentially cuts 10-12 recharges for one simple recharge which is valid for a whole month.

Customers can witness significant savings and a worry-free experience as well, with the elimination of the need for frequent and cumbersome reloads.

For example, the Rs.999 Freedom Pack, which is the largest package, offers customers 60GB of anytime data, which is divided among a 2GB/day quota to ensure that customers will have a substantial amount of daily data for the entire validity of the package.

Around the same price point, other providers offer only a fraction of the data and voice offerings, sometimes with a totally separate package which has to be purchased for talk time.

Airtel to Airtel calls are also unlimited throughout the validity of these packages and free minutes are allocated for Airtel to other networks, and if these minutes run out, customers will only be charged 50 cents per minute, the lowest rate in the industry, accounting only for the interconnect fee when connecting to another network.

Senior management at Airtel have also pro-actively expressed their interest to make the ‘voice’ call facility free-of-charge, with the idea that the basic need to stay connected through voice calls is essential for all people and it’s not something that they should be charged for. It’s an encouraging sight to see a telecom giant address this facility, with hopes of a definitive advantage to the end-consumer.

With the penetration of a newly structured and practically bundled package by Airtel to the local prepaid industry, we’re likely to see other providers follow suit eventually. Often, the influence of a never-before-experienced product in the telecom industry is felt by other providers who will compete to deliver a product with similar or better value. Thus, offering a customer-centric edge in telecommunication advancements.

The point is, it’s important that customers take a closer look at the services they pay for instead of taking it all at face value. Are you paying more for less data? Are there any speed or capacity limitations? Is your internet coverage even worth it? These are all questions worth asking before subscribing to any service.

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SL needs laser-like focus on IMF programme implementation: Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy



Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy, Former Governor

‘If it gets suspended, it would have pretty dramatic consequences’

by Sanath Nanayakkare

There are three most important priorities for Sri Lanka in the wake of the IMF Programme; implementation, implementation and implementation of the agreed upon benchmarks of the programme. Last thing we need to suddenly find is that we have gone off the track of the programme and it is suspended, Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy, Former Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka said on Friday.

He said so while giving the keynote speech at a Central Bank hosted webinar titled “What is next for Sri Lanka in the wake of IMF Programme?”

Deshal De Mel, Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance, Murtaza Jafferjee, Managing Director, JB Securities, Bingumal Thewarathanthri, Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bank were the panelists at the forum where the moderator was Shiran Fernando, Chief Economist at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce

The following are a few comments made by Dr.Coomaraswamy.

The IMF EFF has now been successfully negotiated. This is in some way the beginning. There is lot more to do. It’s time to start thinking about what happens next. A little under a year ago, there were acute shortages of the most essential good. There were long queues and one or two people passed away while in queue. Prices were skyrocketing and exchange rate was collapsing, inflation was spiking and the Central Bank had to push up interest rates. All this happened only a few months from where we are today. The fact that things have stabilized to a significant extent clearly is a very favourable outcome but actually there is no room for complacency because the stabilization has happened at a low-level equilibrium.

It has happened when the economy experienced a 7.6% contraction last year. It was better than what was anticipated by the IMF and the World Bank, but still it is a very sharp contraction. And we need to get to a situation where we have macro-economic stability with a growth rate of about 4%. There is a lot to be done for this. But this is a very commendable place to get to after all. The Paris Club comprising G7 countries has endorsed our efforts to restore debt sustainability. The non-Paris Club creditors such as India and China also have endorsed and supported our efforts too. So the largest countries and creditors are willing to support Sri Lanka to get back on track in terms of debt sustainability. So this is not a bad place to be.”

“IMF programme implementation has always been a weakness on our part. This time we have already done a lot as prior action but there is more as you would have seen from the documentation tabled in parliament including structural reforms and institutional reform. So we have to have laser-like focus on implementation and move forward with the programme. If the programme gets suspended, it would have pretty dramatic consequences. So we need to keep it on track. We can’t give up the absolutely compelling need for fiscal discipline. What is next for us is; discipline and making the needed economic policy and implementing what e have agreed to do. During our past IMF programmes, the issue was lack of implementation by the Sri Lankan authorities.

Earlier this week Dr. Chandranath Amarasekare, Executive Director at the CBSL arranged for the Irish authorities to brief Sri lankan authorities on the implementation unit set up in Ireland when the global financial crisis hit Ireland which led them to go into an IMF programme. Ireland was meticulous in the way they set up the implementation framework. They identified all the action that had to be taken and assigned parts of it to relevant government entities to implement them. Ireland is back on track now. We need to have the same degree of laser-like focus on implementing the benchmarks. We have to figure out what needs to be done and ascribe responsibility for each action and monitor

carefully how we are going about it. We have to make sue we are hitting all the targets and structural benchmarks as we go along. These are embedded in the IMF programme. Last thing we need is to suddenly find that we have gone off the track of the programme and the programme is suspended. That will constrain the inflows to the country and it will affect the confidence beginning to build up now. All that will get undermined if the programme gets suspended because we are not able to keep it on track. So the Implementation Unit will need a very good authority to reach out to any part of government and get things done. We need this Implementation Unit to be well-structured and running well. And it should have the authority of the President behind it,”he said.

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Exterminators PLC opens a training and R&D center



Exterminators PLC, Sri Lanka’s premier pest tech and environmental tech company, opened a 5,000 plus square foot training, research and development center to enhance the quality of service via in-depth innovation to create a circular economy inorder to meet the growing demand in environmentally sustainable public health pest management, agricultural pest management, livestock, plantation and landscape pest management, sanitation and disinfection services in Sri Lanka and emerging and developing markets. The facility includes simulated environments for training in pest management, termite management, mosquito management, sanitation and disinfection, health and safety for new recruits and continuous professional training and development for existing employees.

The company plans to provide training for international pest management professionals in emerging and developing countries as well as serve as a training facility for its strategic franchising partners in the region.

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SLT-MOBITEL ‘Hosting Cub’ for MSMEs enables critical infrastructure and value-added hosting services



Understanding the importance of supporting Micro, Small, And Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) to drive growth and efficiencies, SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT Solutions Provider is offering its Hosting Cub – Shared Web Hosting service catering to vital hosting requirements.

SLT-MOBITEL provides hosting facilities for MSMEs with affordable pricing, easy expansion of MSMEs cyber presence and other value-added offerings via its Shared Hosting and Virtual Private Server (VPS) solutions.

The Shared Hosting proposal is offered as the most economical option available for hosting. The overall cost of server maintenance is shared, also catering to low traffic websites that do not require higher bandwidth such as smaller websites and blogs.

The Share Hosting solution is available via four levels – Stellar, Stellar Plus, Stellar Pro and Stellar Business. The ‘Stellar’ package 1 GB VSAN Disk Space to balance storage usage, monthly 20 GB Bandwidth, 2 Mbps speed, 10 websites allowed, secure connection through SSL, FTP Accounts to manage file transfers, Unlimited email accounts, Unlimited MySQL Database to manage data, Unlimited Sub Domains, Hosting in SLT’s state-of-the-art Data Centre and WordPress supported. The pack is priced at only Rs 7500 per annum.

Similarly, the Stellar Plus presents an enhanced package with 2 GB VSAN Disk Space, monthly 40 GB Bandwidth, approval of 15 websites in addition to all the other value-additions. It is priced at Rs 12,000 per year. The Stellar Pro delivers 3 GB VSAN Disk Space, monthly 100 GB Bandwidth and 30 websites allowed while the Stellar Business provides 5 GB VSAN Disk Space, monthly 150GB Bandwidth and 40 websites. All other features are also enabled. The costs for Stellar Pro and Stellar Business are Rs 16,500 and Rs 25,500 respectively, per annum.

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