Q: What has been Airtel’s investment in Sri Lanka over the past couple of years?

A: During the past two years, we have invested heavily in Sri Lanka with most of it directed towards significant upgrades of our network.

As a result, we are now present in all 24 districts providing coverage to over 90 percent of the Sri Lankan population with our state-of-the-art 4G network. This investment has enabled Airtel to expand its coverage and capacity while establishing a 5G ready mobile broadband experience.

The Airtel network is designed especially for 4G smartphones. Given that 3G is becoming an obsolete technology worldwide, we decided to phase it out and optimise the spectrum for a superior 4G/5G experience.

This has resulted in further performance enhancements including 40 percent increased capacity and 50 percent faster 4G speeds. As a result, Airtel has a very strong 4G service in the country.

Q: How has Airtel Freedom been received by the market?

A: It’s been received extremely well. By August 2022, 1.7 million customers had switched to Airtel Freedom. This success is the result of our customer-centric approach. When designing the package, we went through a process of intensive consumer research to understand the most severe pain points and unspoken demands.

We realised that the average Sri Lankan prepaid user was burning lots of cash across multiple reloads due to the confusing and fragmented nature of prepaid offerings. Our goal was to free them from this vicious cycle by consolidating all our offerings in a few simple packages that could realistically offer them all they needed for a month.

The most recent addition to the Freedom bouquet has been Freedom Unlimited, which offers unlimited voice calls to any network and unlimited social media along with 30 GB data, to take care of working from home and downloads – another first for the Sri Lankan market. All this for a full month at the cost of about 1.5 litres of petrol. While the rest of the market has mirrored our strategy, none has been able to match this offer.

Q: Tell us how your strategy has evolved when it comes to the postpaid market?

A: We have been consistent in our approach even for the postpaid segment. Here too, we launched Airtel Unlimited Freedom postpaid plans with an emphasis on delivering maximum value.

Airtel was the first to introduce the concept of unlimited calls to any network for postpaid users and competitors are now attempting to follow suit.

Since the requirements of our postpaid customers are different, we resorted to tweaks to offer them ample data. This means unlimited voice calls to any network coupled with 40 GB 4G anytime data with full HD quality video and social media – for only Rs. 1,098.

Airtel is the only operator to offer a unique Data Rollover facility for postpaid users. This allows them to carry over unused data for the month to the next month, and save themselves significant amounts of data and expenses.

Users can accumulate up to 200 GB of data and use it for unrestricted HD quality social media, when working from home and for downloads. Such innovations can help our individual customers and corporates save up to 50 percent on their monthly mobile bills. This combined impact is unprecedented in the Sri Lankan market and for Airtel, it’s only the beginning.

Q: Do you see any potential in introducing Airtel’s global enterprise solutions to Sri Lanka?

A: Yes absolutely. Airtel is one of the world’s three largest telecom operators and we have a wealth of resources to draw from. We see immense potential in Sri Lanka and will support local enterprises that wish to tap into this global network, and access enterprise solutions, which will have the strongest positive impact on the market.

Our focus in Sri Lanka has been the prepaid market but we are now fully equipped for bigger things. With our recent upgrades to the Airtel 5G ready network and expansion to cover the entire island, we can now aggressively focus on enterprise solutions.

We have several well-known local and global brands that have signed on as corporate clients. Based on our experiences, we can say with confidence that our network is ready and able to handle the demands made by the corporate sector.

Our main solutions include Bulk SMS with both translational and promotional services, and Corporate Data Bucket that allows for a shared data quota among users where the data allocation can be decided by admin. We also offer Mobile PABX, which doesn’t require hardware or the wired networks of a traditional PABX.

We also see a lot of potential for introducing other solutions from our global basket including IoT, data centres, cloud solutions, cybersecurity, communication as a service and digital wallet solutions.

All these have the capacity to revolutionise the businesses of our enterprise level customers.

Q: Given the prevailing challenges in Sri Lanka, do you still see potential for growth in this market?

A: Sri Lanka is facing historic difficulties and we expect that these conditions will continue for at least another few years. However, we remain bullish about Sri Lanka as we were when we first entered the market.

Despite its challenges, this country is a land of opportunity and is blessed with a wealth of homegrown talent. We believe that the next level of growth will ride on digital technology and the only viable platform to take digital to the people is the mobile phone.

Similarly, for the growth of industry and startups, access to a state-of-the-art digital highway is needed together with 4G/5G services. We believe that our services and global technological capabilities will serve as the bedrock for a new era of growth and prosperity for all Sri Lankans.

Improvements in our ability to convey vast amounts of information between individuals and enterprises instantly is fundamentally empowering. That’s why when we upgraded our network, we made sure to use the latest generation technology.

If harnessed correctly, these capabilities represent a major paradigm shift, which can drastically improve the speed of Sri Lanka’s economic resurgence.

– Compiled by Isanka Perera


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