As Sri Lanka accelerates its digital journey amidst a challenging environment brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) is an indispensable stakeholder of this transformation mapping out, designing and constructing the digital highway for the nation. The strategic evolution of SLT from a communication service provider to a digital service provider, is aimed at facilitating this national transition by bringing the global telecommunications revolution to the doorstep of every household.
Paving the way to a new age in telecommunications in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) and Mobitel, have joined forces, placing the SLT Group in an unparalleled position of both market and technology dominance with a capacity and capability range that is unmatched and backed by a futuristic vision. For over 163 years SLT has provided connectivity, operating on fixed, mobile and other operational segments, while Mobitel has set the benchmark for mobile services in Sri Lanka. The SLT and Mobitel unified brand name “SLT-MOBITEL” is recognisable to the consumers and portrays the unified relationship. The unification of these two technology giants creates the diversified and specialised technology foundation to realise the Government’s objective of a technology-driven economy and a technology-based society. SLT Group’s association with the state sector will further advance the national e-Government plans towards rapid digitalisation of state services and by extension the national economy, driving digital lifestyles across the island.
The SLT Group has spearheaded innovations through strategic and farsighted investments into crucial digital infrastructure running into billions of rupees, and introducing innovative propositions to enable the public of Sri Lanka, from all walks of life and from all parts of the country, to connect, communicate, share, be entertained and do business more effectively. New digital products, services and propositions, from smart housing, to smart health care, to smart travel, industry specific applications, economic platforms such as digital economic centres, village digitisations and digitisation of public services, have dramatically transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens and entrepreneurs. Cognisant of the vital role of innovation in the 21st century’s rapidly evolving information communications industry, innovation in all areas of product and service delivery is deemed a key strategic priority going forward and the innovation capacity of the Company has been further enhanced by the establishment of a dedicated Research and Development Department.
Sowing the seeds of innovation among the next generation is essential for Sri Lanka’s country specific and yet globally compatible adaptation of new technologies that are sweeping the world, and SLT’s R&D initiatives have been conceptualised with a futuristic outlook to catapult Sri Lanka into the digital age with maximum youth participation. The SLT Campus, which is the first research-based fully residential university in Sri Lanka excels in research with over 20 high impact publications to its credit and maintains over 20 research partnerships, collaborating with top ranked universities and institutions in the world. This voyage of knowledge will channel the creation of a knowledge economy in Sri Lanka and has already added to national depositories of technical and specialised skill bases that will also directly and indirectly feed into the national digitisation drive through the availability of skilled personnel.
Meanwhile, the Research and Development Centre, which was established in 2020 will fast-track innovative products into the market. In addition, SLT partnered with the University of Moratuwa, to carry out collaborative research in the areas of electrical engineering, electronics, and telecommunications, with SLT providing support through material, financial, human resources, and testing, is expected to result in major scientific, technological, and economic contributors for the country as a whole. SLT’s Internet of Things (IoT) Design Innovation Laboratory, dedicated towards research and development around IoT, at the university’s premises will be central to the realisation of a Smart Sri Lanka, by providing the ideal environment for IoT concepts to be experimented and tested by students, prior to being implemented in practical situations.
The emergence of many modern entrepreneurial ventures and individuals and households also increasingly adopting modern digital conveniences has made it essential to create customised and personalised products and services that meet specific and complex transactional as well as social and lifestyle needs. In this regard, SLT Group has excelled in the creation of innovative applications that cater to different socio-economic segments from all parts of the island by understanding not only immediate needs of customers and potential customers but by also
responding towards unvoiced and unexpressed aspirations, and desires. From directly supporting the lifestyle changes of individuals and households through a range of entertainment, communications and educational requirements, SLT Group is simultaneously meeting entrepreneurial needs for data speed and security, and data storage capacity, coupled with global interconnectivity at the fastest speeds.
The deep understanding of specialised entrepreneurial requirements has been the change agent in supporting the growth and advancement of Sri Lanka’s SME sector in particular, by designing affordable and yet cutting-edge technology solutions for business needs, that are second to none. Last but not least, strategic partnerships with state institutions that are involved in the provision of essential services and are vital for economic activities, has facilitated ease of doing business and enabled changes to economic transactions across the country among both households and enterprises. SLT Group’s ability to tailor products to public needs was amply demonstrated in containing and controlling the COVID-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka. The unified strengths of the SLT-MOBITEL brand were crucial in ensuring continuous connectivity at both local and global levels, for the provision of essential services to the public of Sri Lanka and in developing solutions to facilitate testing and containment activities, as well as ensuring dissemination of information during this unprecedented crisis.
It has been a matter of pride for the SLT Group to continually enhance the quality of its offerings for the people of Sri Lanka, and thus, increasingly stringent quality control systems have been operationalised to ensure consistently high standards of quality with regards to all products and services. This commitment towards delivering the best to customers is demonstrated by SLT being the first ICT organisation in Sri Lanka to receive the ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System (QMS) certification issued by the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) for all SLT Business Units.
Always striving to improve, the product and services of SLT Group will come under even greater oversight following the implementation of a Quality Strategy Framework, which was formulated during the year under review. The comprehensive framework, which encompasses quality standards, material standardisation, workmanship rules and guidelines, research and development, data analysis for quality improvements, platform performance, IT systems and communications, ensures holistic controls and continuous monitoring of all systems and process towards the final objective of unmatched customer service standards. Reinforcing this corporate vision across the hierarchy, a quality management forum was convened with top officials of the Organisation to enhance the standard of service quality, material quality, process quality and network and system quality to ensure an exceptional customer experience at every contact point.
Access to information is a central democratic right of all citizens but many, particularly from the rural parts and pockets of underserved communities, often face insurmountable difficulties in access essential information for social, health and economic welfare of their families. SLT Group has been a key contributor towards realising this essential democratic dimension for the Sri Lankan public by ensuring network availability for the transmission of information. Deploying nearly 60,000 km of optical fibre across the entire island, penetrating deep into the rural hinterlands, SLT’s fibre technology, has enabled fast and secure access to information from all quarters both locally and globally, to hundreds of thousands of households across the island. Over 300 nodes have been connected countrywide, connecting data traffic from various points in the island, making it possible to route data to destinations within milliseconds. The ultra-high-speed capacity and cutting-edge routers, takes access to information to a level never before experienced by the people of Sri Lanka, enabling not only direct voice communications to any part of the country and the world but also facilitating entertainment and educational opportunities through access to global resources. During the COVID-19 related restrictions, SLT successfully connected a large number of Government organisations, demonstrating the versatility and resilience of its network.
As a developing country, affordability is vital to facilitate rapid digitisation of the country, by making it possible for all demographics, including the bottom of the pyramid, to access digital applications. Therefore, SLT Group’s ultimate objective is to enable a digital future which is accessible to all by providing the latest technological innovations at highly affordable prices. Innovative and cost effective technologies are sourced and developed, and introduced to the public, to maximise cost efficiencies and affordability to the user. With the objective of building an inclusive digital society, SLT Group provides the full range of ICT solutions in customised formats, to suit all income brackets, making it possible for all social classes in the country and the next generation of Sri Lankans, to experience and benefit from the digital age. Through the synergies generated by the unification, SLT and MOBITEL will be in a position to offer even greater value additions at the most cost effective terms, by expanding its 4G, 5G and wireless broadband offering under a unified brand umbrella.
Common communications platforms are a key aspect of global connectivity and affordable ICTs, and are fast gaining popularity globally by enabling people from all parts of the world to connect, interact and work together. SLT Group offers network infrastructure connectivity with the hosting environment developed through data centres and cloud that are essential to enable shared and common communications and work is already underway to consolidate 4G and 5G networks under one network for fixed wireless broadband services and mobile broadband services that will enhance connectivity at a scale never before experienced in Sri Lanka. In addition, as an indispensable component of social and economic connectivity, through the LGN project, SLT has connected Government establishments into a single unified network, enhancing communications between state institutions.
SLT Group is committed towards uplifting the standards of ICT education in the nation which is vital to achieve the vision of a knowledge economy and makes many contributions towards this end, including through CSR projects. ICT infrastructure projects in schools across the island, such as smart classroom solutions in remote schools, have empowered the next generations of students with access to modern technology and global education. In addition, SLT donates computers to underprivileged schools, provides broadband connections with 12 months of free rental, and conducts ICT awareness lectures as part of its drive to uplift ICT education. SLT also conducted several ICT awareness sessions for teachers of rural schools and has developed platforms to facilitate online education, which was invaluable in educating children during COVID-19 pandemic. By providing access to reading materials through e-learning and m-learning platforms, SLT has empowered thousands of students, graduates and other knowledge seekers in Sri Lanka.
In taking Sri Lanka towards tech-driven economy, SLT conducts several IT skills development programmes to equip future generations with ICT literacy. These programmes include “CoderDojo”, hackbit programmes, and the IOT and Robotic programme.
Since the industrial revolution swept the world, the ICT revolution is one of the fastest evolving and most impactful changes in the world, with almost inconceivable innovations emerging over the last few decades, propelling human development towards a new age. Modern telecoms are adopting the latest technologies such as AI, ML, IoTs, 5G networks and virtual reality applications both internally and towards catering to the requirements of different consumer segments. Keeping abreast of this super-speed technology is as challenging as it is necessary, if Sri Lanka is to be an active and productive participant of the digital revolution.
SLT Group has been the change agent driving this change from the bottom up, backed by a futuristic vision that foresaw digital infrastructure spanning the island for a new digitally empowered Sri Lanka. The SLT and MOBITEL network has been instrumental in placing Sri Lanka on a higher pedestal amongst other countries in South Asia, with investments into the latest technologies in 4G LTE and 5G and has also successfully trialled the first 5G network, achieving a new speed record of 1.55 Gbps for the first time in South Asia using a commercial 5G mobile smartphone. Mobitel was also the first to launch a Super 3.5G HSPA network in South Asia, successfully demonstrating HSPA+ MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) technology and launched the first commercial 4.5G/4G LTE+ mobile network. When faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, SLT’s many concessionary education packages to students, work-from-home facilities and specialised solutions for local businesses and communities made its possible for the country to continue functioning on digital platforms. Already an array of digital channels have been introduced that cater to customer services, SmartHome solutions and a trading platform for agriculture products. With the brand unification, SLT and MOBITEL is now poised to up the game in terms of innovative and user friendly technology solutions that will drive recovery of the economy in the post-COVID era. These include a pre-commercial 5G service using 3.5 GHz, by mid-2021, while the research and development centre is aimed at fast-tracking many more innovations.
SLT Group’s inclusive vision is driven by a strategy of rural penetration that has deployed fibre optic connectivity deep into the regions making great strides in bridging the digital divide by taking modern ICTs closer to remote households. Access to technology will continue to create new economic opportunities, while facilitating educational opportunities and also enabling quality of life improvements for rural families. Already SLT and MOBITEL have taken the lead to provide connectivity solutions to many isolated villages, schools and other public institutions, encouraging rural entrepreneurs to access markets and information and making its possible for children in under served communities to access educational services.
The SLT Group has invested billions of rupees towards its strategic vision of a digital Sri Lanka in a highly sophisticated international and local network infrastructure and many other support systems. During the current year, SLT continued the acceleration of the Fibre to the premises programme with continued investments for the laying of Fibre core network island wide. More major investments in the horizon includes US $ 60 Mn. in the proposed South East Asia–Middle East–Western Europe 6 (SEA-ME-WE 6) submarine cable system, which is scheduled to be completed by the year 2024. The SLT Group also provided extensive support in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic having invested in excess of LKR 350 Mn. in activities towards promoting social distancing, facilitate essential services, supporting the Government in its endeavours, and connecting the nation.
With its unified assets and markets, SLT Group is a significant economic entity with both direct and indirect contributions that support the growth and modernisation of the national economy. A key economic contribution is in form of employment generation with the SLT Group providing direct employment to over 10,000 persons within its wider business operations, while supporting many thousands of employments indirectly, through its wide range of products and services. The island-wide fibre network has boosted productivity and unlocked job opportunities across numerous sectors and socio-economic segments in Sri Lanka, making significant contributions towards the Nation’s economic development. Moreover, through capacity building of an experienced IT workforce, SLT Group contributes towards improving export growth through innovation and entrepreneurship, enhancing supply of skilled professionals to satisfy growing IT-BPM (Business Process Management) market growth and establish a strong start up ecosystem in Sri Lanka, positioning Sri Lanka IT/BPM sector globally.
By enabling digital solutions, SLT Group has facilitated immense cost advantages and cost savings to businesses and Government intuitions islandwide. All SLT Group products and services have been developed to be affordable, while high speed connectivity and multi-tasking and automations, have triggered process changes that cut down on costs associated with time, travelling and labour.
As a highly compliant and responsible corporate citizen, SLT Group is one of the largest tax payers to the national coffers, contributing unstintingly towards national welfare and infrastructure projects in addition to the many CSR projects conducted by the Company. During the current year, total tax payments came to LKR 17.06 Bn. compared to LKR 25.5 Bn. in the previous year.
SLT Group believes that urgent and sustained action is required to address the climate emergency, and building a digitally inclusive society that enhances socio-economic progress, should not come at a cost to the environment. As a responsible corporate entity, SLT Group is also highly conscious of its environmental responsibilities and makes all attempts to safeguard the environment in its daily business activities. SLT was the first telecommunications company in the country to have been recognised with the ISO 14064 carbon footprint certification which puts SLT in the forefront as an organisation that complies with internationally recognised greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reporting standards. Its transformation into a digital service provider and the use of its technologies and services provides customers with the means to achieve a reduction in their GHG emissions.
In committing towards lowering the company’s carbon footprint, SLT Group invests in the most efficient energy management systems in its operations, while also encouraging employees to adopt responsible attitudes towards energy consumption both at work and at home. The Group is committed to ensuring a sustainable future for everyone. Its focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy supply and network waste reduction has helped to mitigate the growth of its business and customers’ increasing demand for connectivity solutions.
As a leading corporate and the national telecommunications services provider, SLT maintains high levels of compliance with all applicable regulations while also maintaining sound business ethics in all its transactions. Strong and transparent governance systems that are continually reviewed have ensured industry best practices and responsible behaviour in all activities to serve the people of Sri Lanka as support a digitally inclusive Nation.