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June 5, 2006 (LBO) – Sri Lanka plans to expand its mobile phone market to five players, in a bid to bring down costs of telephony, the telecom regulator said Monday. Sri Lanka’s mobile market had grown 53.5 percent to 3.34 million customers as at end 2005, according to TRC figures.

The island’s cellular penetration is expected to increase to 20.0 percent in 2006, from 17.3 percent last year, according to industry analysts.

“Mobile phones are one of the fastest growing segments in the economy now, and it is showing potential to grow further,” notes Ratwatte.

Dialog Telekom, currently dominates the market with over 2-million subscribers.

A unit of Teleokom Malaysia, Dialog competes with Mobitel a unit of Sri Lanka Telecom; Celltel Lanka Ltd and Hong Kong’s Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd.

Newcomers will have to pay 4-million dollars for the license fee, says Ratwatte adding that the closing date for applications has been fixed for June 30.

In May, Sri Lanka invited mobile operators to set up a next generation or third generation mobile phone network, with the aim of offering high speed wireless services.

TRC has