Leadership and Recognition

Driving Two Decades of Internet History in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Telecom PLC (SLT) partnered the biggest ICT event in Sri Lanka, ‘INET Colombo 2015’ to mark the 20th anniversary of the introduction of Internet to Sri Lanka. It was also an occasion to acknowledge the role played by the various organisations and bodies involved in shaping ICT and the Internet in Sri Lanka over the past, particularly the Internet Society Sri Lanka Chapter, Asia Pacific Bureau of Internet Society, LK Domain Registry, University of Moratuwa and Lanka Education and Research Network (LEARN).

The two-day event was held in June 2015 in Colombo. In addition, remote hubs were set up in various parts of the island including Jaffna and Kandy, to enable a wider participation. SLT provided the conference venues with state-of-the-art broadband technologies that ensured Wi-Fi connectivity to all organisers and participants.

As the national ICT solutions provider in the country spanning a period exceeding 150 years, SLT has played an important role in driving ICT and the Internet revolution in the country. SLT introduced email and Internet services through dial-up connectivity in 1996, opening up a new world of opportunities for Sri Lankans and joining Sri Lanka to the worldwide Internet community. With the pace picking up, SLT introduced ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) technology to Sri Lanka in 1999, enabling Internet access at speeds that far exceeded those already available. It also enabled the use of new applications such as video conferencing for the first time.

The ensuing years saw SLT expanding its communication network across all parts of the island, replacing the legacy copper networks with optical fibre cabling. In 2002, SLT introduced Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL), offering a giant leap in Internet access speeds. Sri Lanka was among the first countries in South Asia to experience the benefits of high speed broadband, which in time became powered through multiple technologies including ADSL2+, VDSL2, Ultra speed optical fibre (FTTH/x), carrier-grade Wi-Fi and both fixed and mobile 4G LTE technologies.

Today, as the national backbone network (NBN) operator, SLT covers the entire country through an optical fibre network that ensures reliability and ultra high speed data transmission. SLT has also partnered with global telecom companies to connect continents and countries with submarine optical fibre cable links such as SEA-ME-WE 3 (South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe), SEA-ME-WE 4, Bharat-Lanka (between India and Sri Lanka) and Dhiraagu-SLT (between Maldives and Sri Lanka). Currently, SLT is in the process of implementing yet another important connectivity project, the SEA-ME-WE 5 international undersea cable system with a total design capacity of 24 Tbps which will deliver a massive increase in communications capacity.

SLT has also successfully deployed the world’s latest Internet Protocol (IP) version – IPv6 at the LK Domain Registry in Sri Lanka. IPv6 deployment is a key milestone in ICT service enhancement for both SLT and the LK Domain Registry. Similarly, SLT successfully upgraded ‘LEARN’ – Lanka Education and Research Network – to empower Sri Lanka’s higher education. LEARN upgrade consists of enhancing the Internet access bandwidth up to 1.65 Gbps and providing wide area network (WAN) with universities and research institutes countrywide. LEARN interconnects all state-funded universities coming under the University Grants Commission (UGC), a number of public universities that function under other ministries, the UGC, the Ministry of Higher Education, and a number of national research institutions including the National Science Foundation. LEARN also has direct connectivity with SchoolNet, the network connecting secondary schools island wide and Lanka Government Network (LGN), the network connecting Government institutions in Sri Lanka.

Since obtaining BOI approval in 2007, SLT has invested over USD 485 million towards improving the country’s multi-faceted ICT infrastructure, such as Internet data centres, voice services, enterprise and wholesale services, high speed broadband services, PEO (personalised entertainment option) TV expansion, fibre optic network expansion, 4G LTE (long-term evolution) expansion, international connectivity, fibre to the home (FTTH) and Wi-Fi wireless broadband projects.

The world has changed and will continue to change. People’s lifestyles have been tremendously transformed by broadband Internet services and technologies – be it for business, education or social purposes. Internet users are now generating content and uploading them onto the web to be shared within their circles of friends. All these need the wide deployment of broadband network. Sophisticated ICT infrastructure and services remains the only way to fulfil the insatiable demand for connectivity, while supporting parallel platforms for interactive television, distance learning, online education, e-health and opportunities for cloud computing, private business networking and much more at superior speed, with high quality and reliability. SLT, along with its Group companies, will continue to support this drive through innovation and investments and deliver sustainable results in the short, medium and long-term.