Sri Lanka plans to let independent firms build telecoms towers

Sri Lanka plans to let independent firms build telecoms towers

The Sri Lanka government is reportedly making moves to amend the country’s telecoms laws to allow independent companies to build telecoms towers.

Under the current Telecommunications Regulatory Commission Act, towers can only be built by licenced telecoms operators. A report from EconomyNext, quoting State Technology Minister Kanaka Herath, said the government has tabled amendments that include opening the tower business to third parties.

According to the report, Herath said that the amendments are needed to speed up tower rollouts to meet government targets.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) aims to build 276 towers to boost mobile broadband connectivity and support the rollout of 5G, both of which are needed to help facilitate the government’s plan to expand the country’s digital economy to US$15 billion by 2030.

However, Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has forced telcos to slash their budgets for tower construction. Consequently, only 50 towers were constructed in 2023, while another 150 towers are supposed to be built this year, the report said.

Herath said the government wants to allow third parties to build towers “so that it will develop faster than we have right now,” the report said.

Herath said that parliament is expected to debate the amendments within two months.

If the amendments pass, it could open up another market for regional and global tower companies that have seen tremendous growth in the past few years as telcos divest their tower assets.

Axiata Group’s Edotco already has a foot in the market, having established a local subsidiary there in 2015. The company has been installing passive infrastructure like “smart street poles” that can host small cells for multiple tenants. It has also partnered with Hutch Lanka and sister telco Dialog Axiata for trials involving Open RAN and stanadlone 5G, respectively. 

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