Expensive Chat

Mar. 13 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s two private wireless local loop telecom operators have been called up to pay around Rs. 400 million as duties for importing handsets, industry officials said. Last month, the island’s Board of Investment (BOI) slapped a 33 percent import duty on Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) handsets with immediate effect.

CDMA is a low cost cellular 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 similar to a bulky fixed line unit.

Being BOI companies, Suntel and Lanka Bell, are allowed to import customer premises equipment or handsets without paying import duties.

However, since rolling out CDMA services since last June, Lanka Bell and Suntel have been asked to pay up for around 180,000 units sold todate.

Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT), which is partially owned by the government and Japan’s NTT and pays taxes regularly, however has got away, despite selling around 100,000 CDMA connections, according to the telecom watchdog.

“We are going on the premise that both operators (Lanka Bell and Suntel) sell the equipment to the ultimate