Walkie Talkie

August 2, 2007 (LBO) – A Sri Lankan celco is rolling out a mobile payphone system for rural communities that have limited access to telecommunications facilities, but it is a market worth billions of rupees, officials said. Sri Lanka has over six million mobile phone users, serviced by four operators.

Contrary to popular perceptions that the poor are unable or unwilling to access telecommunications, Sri Lanka’s biggest mobile phone operator, Dialog Telekom is quietly finding the opposite to be true.

Dailog’s ‘eZ buddy’ is a supervised public phone system where an individual user is allowed to share his mobile phone with another and charge a fee for the usage of the call, or text message.

Come Hither

“The ‘eZ buddies’ can be approached by individuals who wish to make a call. Once the call is completed, the caller pays a specified amount to the ‘buddy’ based on the charge indicated on the phone via an SMS (Short Message Service or text messages).

In this way, the ‘eZ buddy’ acts as a mobile phone booth,” explains Supun Weerasinghe, head of Dialog’s corporate planning department.

The call charges are similar to Dialog pre-paid tariffs — between three rupees to seven rupees a minute