Comfort Letter

Mar. 20 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s telecommunications regulator has upheld two private fixed operators’ claim to import handsets duty free, and blocked the country’s main investment body’s move to tax the instruments, a top official said. Last month, Board of Investment of Sri Lanka (BOI) slapped a 33 percent import duty on Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) handsets with immediate effect.

CDMA is a low cost wireless technology that has been effectively used world over to provide cheaper connectivity to rural homes.

Though the technology is similar to mobile phones, the handsets are bulky desktop units like standard fixed line units.

Being BOI companies, the two wireless local loop operators Suntel and Lanka Bell, are allowed to import customer premises equipment or handsets without paying import duty.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) wrote to the BOI today confirming operators’ duty free access, its Director General Kanchana Ratwatte said.

Over 250,000 CDMA connections have been issued since both operators and Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) began offering services last year.

SLT has to pay duty on imported handsets as it does not enjoy the same investment concessio