Q&A with Indika Walpitage, Vice President, Network Operations & Service Assurance, Dialog Axiata

indika walpitage (002)Dialog Axiata trialled 5G for the first-time last year. What did you learn from this trial about the technology solutions you will need to build future networks?

Dialog demonstrated the 5G technology and its applications to the general public, industry and academics in August 2017. This was the first such demonstration in South Asia with multivendor involvement.

In the past consumption has been driven mainly by consumers for broadband access but 5G brings new paradigms where usage can be driven by industry and not by the consumer alone. While 5G can be used for lowering the cost per MB and delivering high speed broadband capabilities initially, later versions will be focused more towards industrial applications and high-tech consumer applications.

One of the new verticals we focussed on during the trial is industry automation. Low latency achieved through URLLC will enable cloud based centralized intelligence and control which will significantly lower costs of automation. Building the Edge cloud infrastructure will be a key component for this.

Other new verticals include remote haptic control together with VR capability which will bring remote surgery type applications requiring both high speed and low latency communication.

Some of these applications will require complete changes in the transport network as well as centralized processing which need to be moved to the edge to support the stringent latency requirements

What are the major challenges you face in rolling out new networks?

Acquisition of larger spectrum blocks such as 100 MHz will be a challenge in Sri Lanka in the 3.5GHz band as there are occupants already using legacy wireless technologies like Wimax and other proprietary solutions. Regulations related to the use of E band and other high bands are not yet finalised in Sri Lanka. This will cause some delays in introducing commercial 5G networks locally.

Since 2G, 3G and 4G are still widely used, having to co-locate a fourth technology on existing base station infrastructure will be a challenge. There will be challenges in installing heavier antenna integrated radios into existing infrastructure.

Operators need to densify the network, especially when we deploy 5G at higher frequencies. This needs a sound business case to justify the investments and is going to be a logistically challenging task.

Deployment of fibre to all sites is essential to support the higher fronthaul and backhaul bandwidths which are needed in 5G systems. This also creates a significant challenge for operators like us.

How are you preparing for 5G in current network deployments and improvements?

We have been actively lobbying with the regulator to release the spectrum required to rollout 5G. In terms of infrastructure readiness we have been working proactively since the introduction of SDR based radio products by major network equipment suppliers. All new procurements are in line with 5G architecture to support upgrading to 5G. The core and transport network roadmap is being developed with 5G and its applications in mind and we are already progressing towards building cloud-based NFV and SDN infra.

We have already deployed a considerable number of massive MIMO radios in the access network. More importantly, building people skills on digitization and automation within the organization is key to success in our 5G journey. We have focused attention on this aspect.

What is your key message at 5G Asia this year?

We have realized the importance of introducing commercial 5G networks to our market as soon as the technology is ready. Currently the use case is enhanced broadband with low cost per bit, yet in the future we will see multiple use cases, mainly targeting industry automation. It’s important to work with business and technology partners to identify the needs and correct solutions while working with regulators to secure the spectrum assets. We also need to integrate with the complete 5G ecosystem to get maximum gains. Digitization and automation should be key ingredients in the 5G success formula.


Hear from Indika Walpitage and senior speakers from telcos across the APAC region at 5G Asia 2018, taking place in Singapore this September.

  • Private Networks in a 5G World

  • 5G Networking Digital Symposium

  • LIVE: Getting the Best out of 5G

  • 5G Ecosystem Digital Symposium

  • 2020 Vision Executive Summit

  • TechXLR8

  • BIG 5G Event

  • 5G World

  • 5G Latin America

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