Thirukumar Nadarasa, CEO of Hutch Lanka, recently chatted with LMDtv on the effects of the pandemic on the telecom industry, and how Hutch continues to overcome obstacles to create a more connected and digitally inclusive Sri Lanka.
Last year’s surge in lockdowns posed a number of obstacles for Hutch, including a 50% increase in data traffic as swathes of people stayed indoors and on their phones. The biggest challenge during this time was that 90% of customers were on prepaid; meaning lockdown simply prevented them from going outside to top up. Hutch has since tackled these issues and maintains a range of initiatives to help customers top up via other avenues, mainly online.
One of the main issues for Sri Lanka, especially in rural areas, is lack of connectivity and digital inclusion. Although there is 100% mobile penetration, only 50% of mobile customers have a smartphone to access the internet. So, 50% of mobile users are not able to access the internet. Nadarasa says, “There is definitely a digital divide that needs to be addressed and I think it’s important that the telecommunications industry does its part to help facilitate this.”
Sri Lanka’s four telcos are working together with government to reach regional areas where economics and low population have previously prevented deployment of a tower. He adds, “Although Sri Lanka today has one of the lowest tariffs in the world, for the rural areas, it is still a costly exercise so we need to find innovative solutions to make internet connectivity more affordable.”
Gen Z is also high on Hutch’s radar as this is the first generation to essentially live their entire life online. Hutch is committed to push the telecommunications industry to provide reliable and affordable connectivity for this generation.
The ongoing rollout of 5G is also closely connected to Sri Lanka’s desire to attract more foreign investment. He says, “They will also be looking to see if the country has 5G connectivity for the development of new industries and services.”
Watch the full interview here.