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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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SLTMobitel-PEOTV and DP Education launch ‘Videsa DP Education’



SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT, Telecommunications and Mobile Services Provider has teamed up with DP Education, to launch ‘Videsa DP Education’, a dedicated educational channel on CH.215 of SLTMobitel–PEOTV, ensuring school children from Grade Five to Advanced Level have access to a high-quality learning experience with Rewind TV.

The revolutionary services of SLTMobitel-PEOTV includes ‘Videsa’ a series of educational channels hosted on the platform, that comprise of 06 TV channels dedicated to individual grades covering grades 06 to 11, that enhance the knowledge sharing with curriculum-centered lessons from a panel of reputed teachers. DP Education, a unique online learning platform, leverages digital solutions to deliver quality education to empower students. Together, Videsa and DP Education, enrich the educational arena further with the ‘Videsa DP Education’ channel, a dedicated television space for the students at home.

This path-breaking partnership is a commitment by SLTMobitel–PEOTV to support the education of children, whose options are limited due to the challenges convergence posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative will use the home TV screen and mobile devices as a ubiquitous medium to impart knowledge providing access to quality education for students across the country.

Commenting on the initiative, Rohan Fernando, Group Chairman, SLT said, “We understand that parents are now faced with the challenge of keeping their children safe during the pandemic as well as having to deal with the ongoing disturbances to their children’s education. As a solution to ensure that their learning remains uninterrupted, we have already introduced six different channels for Grade 6 to Grade 11 students through our Videsa digital platform. Our latest initiative and partnership with DP Education has now enabled us to launch a dedicated channel with unique learning experiences in key subjects such as Mathematics, Science and English for students from Grade 5 to Advanced Level with the Rewind TV facility. We are appreciative of the exceptional efforts extended by Mr. Dammika Perera and his team at DP Education and are grateful for the opportunity to connect the two learning platforms together in unison to create a revolutionary learning experience for our children”.

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Thornton and Dane’s combined projects portfolio tops Rs 5.9 billion



Thornton Engineering, the Nextventures owned civil engineering company, has announced the acquisition of a 100% stake in Dane Engineering (Pvt) Ltd. for Rs 350 million, creating a construction business with a combined portfolio of Rs 5.9 billion.

The new entity, Thornton and Dane Engineering, expects to add new construction projects with a cumulative value of Rs 5 billion within the current financial year, nearly doubling its projects portfolio, the Company said in its announcement.

“We are excited at the post-acquisition prospects for the new company, because we strongly believe that it is a good example for the concept of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts,” said Thornton and Dane Director Dinesh Schaffter. “The combined strengths of Thornton and Dane create a formidable as well as extremely flexible engineering company that is capable of executing projects of varying scope and scale.”

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Capacity-building programs for SMEs



Sri Lanka Chamber of Small and Medium Industries (SLCSMI), the apex body for SMEs in Sri Lanka has been at the forefront in supporting the SMEs during the pandemic. The chamber took several measures since the pandemic first hit the country in the first quarter of 2020. The Webinar series “Way Forward for SMEs” was a grand success among other initiatives, which was conducted with the participation of prominent scholars, leading business personalities as well as top rankers of state and private sector organizations.

The president of SLCSMI, Prof. Rohan De Silva said: “We are always there to represent and support the SMEs in the country and that’s our prime duty. During the first wave, we understood the need to share the knowledge and provide psychological support for the business owners to withstand the difficult times and that’s how the webinar series was born. Our initiative was well received by the businesses and our audience was not limited to Sri Lanka alone, as we witnessed participants from around 12 countries.”

Prof. Rohan further said that the chamber has looked at the possibilities of providing sustainable solutions to the SMEs beyond merely conducting knowledge sharing sessions and the Executive Committee has decided to introduce a range of Capacity Building programs to develop the SMEs. These programs include different solutions to address various gaps among the SMEs and the chamber intends to issue a valuable certificate for the participants of these programs.

The chamber has partnered with the Asia Pacific Institute of Money and Entrepreneurship Development (iMED) to design and deliver the programs and the details of the Programs will be unveiled at the launching event scheduled to be held on the 25th of September.

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