Sri Lanka Etisalat unit says to expand ‘aggressively’

Sri Lanka Etisalat unit says to expand ‘aggressively’
Feb 25, 2010 (LBO) – Etisalat’s new Sri Lankan mobile subsidiary said it plans to expand coverage to cover the entire island, offer high speed links and use its international group network to give preferential rates to win customers.
“We’re here to stay in Sri Lanka,” Etisalat group chief marketing officer Essa Al Haddad told a news conference held to announce the launch of services under the new brand.

“As investors and telecom service providers we’re here for the long term.”

Etisalat, the United Arab Emirates-based telecom firm, acquired 100 percent of the Sri Lanka operation called Tigo from Millicom International in October 2009 and has renamed it Etisalat Lanka.

The celco is the third-largest mobile telephony operator in Sri Lanka with 2.5 million customers and an estimated market share of around 20 percent.

Etisalat Lanka chief executive Dumindra Ratnayaka said the company will set up more base stations to expand coverage throughout the island, including the north and east which are recovering from a war.

The island’s 30-year ethnic war ended in May 2009, resulting in an economic revival.

Etisalat Lanka has already have set up eight base stations in the north and will launch operations in the northern Jaffna peninsula on Friday, Ratnayaka told the news conference.

“We will aggressively start rolling out our base stations from March,” he said.

“We will roll out 450 2G base stations, mostly in the north and east, to fill any gaps we have, increasing the number of stations to 1,500 in the next six months.”

Of the new 2G base stations, 100 will be in the north and east.

The firm will also set up 500 3G base stations offering higher speeds over the same period.

Ratnayaka said the company will also promote its international roaming services making use of the group network which has 100 million subscribers in 18 countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

“Our group presence helps us to give preferential rates, packages and services,” Ratnayaka said.

“When roaming within the group network we will offer preferential rates, which will vary from network to network; for instances in some networks incoming calls will be free.”

Etisalat Lanka also intends to capture market share by exploiting the presence of Sri Lankan migrant workers in the Middle East.

“The UAE is host to many communities and nationalities including Sri Lankans who have a lot of connections with Sri Lanka,” group chief marketing officer Essa Al Haddad said.

He also said Etisalat’s ownership of the company will enable it to benefit from economies of scale. “We can provide scale – such as in accessing technical resources and in buying equipment.”