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Mobile networks perplexed by monstrous numbers

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Unmanageability of networks leads to call interruptions

With the spiraling increase in the number of mobile phone users in Sri Lanka, mobile network operators are finding it difficult to manage their networks.
Industry experts say that this has severely affected the quality of services offered by these companies. Frequent complaints with regard to network issues include network failures, signal drops interrupting phone calls and delays in text messages being delivered.

According to statistics recently released by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, a total of 3.4 million mobile phones were imported in 2011, a 282% increase compared to 2010, when 0.8 million units were imported. The number had increased further in 2012, where 3.5 million units were imported. Hence, nearly 7 million mobiles have been imported to the country within a span of just two years.

However, speaking to The Nation on the issue, Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL), Anusha Palpita. said the TRC has not noticed such an issue on the part of mobile network operators.
“There are currently five mobile network operators in the country. While one mobile network operator may not have 100% islandwide coverage, it is a fact that 100% of the island has mobile phone coverage.

Therefore, customers can easily switch to a different mobile network operator if they’re not satisfied with their existing one”, Palpita noted.
However, Palpita ruled out introducing Mobile Number Portability (MNP) technology to offset any coverage issue.  The facility allows mobile phone users to retain their mobile phone numbers when they switch from one mobile network operator to another.
Palpita said the TRC had conducted a feasibility study on introducing the system to Sri Lanka, but had found it wasn’t financially viable.

He explained that out of around 20 million mobile phone users in Sri Lanka, around 18.5 million customers are pre-paid users while only around 1.5-1.8 million were post-paid users.
“The MNP is designed for post-paid users. However, if we are to introduce the facility, we would have to restructure the entire network made up of nearly 20 million users. This would cost between Rs.30-40 million. Even if this was to happen, we can’t expect all of the post-paid users to adopt the facility and keep their mobile numbers”, he explained. He added the introduction of the facility in places such as India and Pakistan had failed.   
Therefore,  introducing such a facility was not feasible for Sri Lanka, Palpita said.

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