Dialog Telekom: “Unlimited data tariffs as a whole will not be sustainable”

We talk to Pradeep de Almeida, group CTO of Dialog Telekom, Sri Lanka, who will be taking part in a panel discussion on LTE and emerging markets on day two of the LTE World Summit 2012, taking place on the 23-24 May 2012 CCIB, Barcelona, Spain. He gives us his thoughts on innovation in the industry, on how to get OTTs to talk to operators on contributing to network costs, and provides a unique solution for persisting with unlimited data tariffs.

What are the main milestones you have achieved with relation to your LTE rollout?

In 2011 we have implemented a pilot LTE network covering strategic places in and around Colombo, Sri Lanka.

What are the main challenges you have faced, or expect to face, as you roll out LTE?

The main challenge is getting the right spectrum. We have been continuously lobbying with the regulator to get the 1800 MHz and 700 MHz spectrum cleared for the mobile LTE

Can LTE and the emphasis on data on its own halt declining revenue streams?

Yes, provided the operators adopt the correct charging strategies.

What is your take on the unlimited data tariff argument? Is it sustainable?

Unlimited data tariffs as a whole will not be sustainable. Having said that, since bandwidths are leased on a monthly basis, if operators adopt a charging mechanism based on utilisation and time of the day, there can be an opportunity to extend unlimited data tariffs with certain restrictions (e.g. avoiding peak hours).

With so much attention paid to the radio access network is there enough focus on backhaul?

There are challenges posed on backhaul mainly due to the legacy and hybrid networks that operators have today. Once they migrate to a full IP network this can be managed much more efficiently.

Do you think that VoLTE will have an impact and if so in what time frame?

VoLTE will be a long-term solution and  will take four to five years at least to bed in, mainly due to the availability and affordability of handsets.

Is there enough innovation occurring in the mobile network industry? Can you provide some examples?

The internet has been four to five years ahead of the mobile industry; hence the trend in mobile industry has been to follow the internet. But initiatives like Rich Communication Suite-enhanced (RCS-e) and machine-to-machine communications, for example from NFC-based services such as mobile payments, are examples of innovation that will have great impact on the mobile industry.

Where do you stand on OTT players contributing to the costs of building out networks.

Due to high competition among mobile operators it has created an environment for the OTT players to come and make use of the operator network at no cost to them. Instead of getting them to pay for the rolling out of the networks operators should come up with strategies like chargeable APIs and differentiated QoS to get the OTT players to come to the table to discuss revenue share agreements.

What changes would you hope to see in the industry in the next five years?

The main challenge in countries like Sri Lanka is to get an affordable handset onto the market. The device industry should evolve to support local languages and make smart features available to the consumer at an affordable cost.

Why are you attending the LTE World Summit and what are you looking forward to most?

The main reason is to ensure my knowledge of the industry is up to date, and to share the experience with my colleagues in the industry.

The LTE World Summit is taking place on the 23-24 May 2012 CCIB, Barcelona, Spain. Click here to register your interest.

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