Hutch deploys NFV core network, expands 4G coverage

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Hutch Sri Lanka announced that the company has deployed Sri Lanka’s first fully-fledged Network Function Virtualization (NFV) core based network. That’s certainly a mouthful. Here’s a breakdown and what it means exactly.

What’s NFV?

NFV can be referred to as a means of incorporating cloud and virtualization technologies to enable faster development of network services. It includes decoupling network functions from proprietary hardware appliances. This allows the network functions to run in software on standardized hardware.

HUTCH Sri Lanka | Asanga Ranasinghe
HUTCH Sri Lanka, General Manager, IT, Asanga Ranasinghe talks about the NFV network

So why did Hutch for a fully-fledged NFV implementation? According to the management, it comes down to faster service deployment, flexibility and scalability, and enhanced security. A fully-fledged NFV core network also meant building a Tier 3 data center. Currently, there are only 3 in Sri Lanka and one of them now belongs to Hutch.

But how does this benefit the consumer? Hutch states that NFV would enable the company to cater to the industry demand better, essentially offering a better service. This is because as demand increase, the required network infrastructure could be deployed faster and at a lower capital expenditure.

Additionally, Hutch also announced its Converged Billing system (CvBS). This would enable postpaid and prepaid billing systems to run on a single platform. What this means is that it offers the flexibility to define unique packages and services for customers, regardless of whether you’re on a corporate or a personal package.

4G, merger, and the works

It wasn’t all about NFV and CvBS though. Hutch also took the time to talk about their progress with deploying 4G coverage around the country and their recent merger with Etisalat Sri Lanka. Back when the merger announcement was first made, we talked about the strategic reasons as to why the company made the decision.

To put it simply, the merger makes network expansion particularly for 4G, more economical and effective for Hutch. Additionally, it would give access to the 50MHz spectrum and 15MHz of the 900MHz band. Better spectrum – better data speeds and call quality. So far, networks of 10 districts have been merged and offer complete 4G coverage.  The remaining districts are to be followed soon.  

HUTCH Sri Lanka | Dhananjaya Ponnamperuma
HUTCH Sri Lanka, General Manager, Network, Dhananjaya Ponnamperuma talks about the merger and the company’s 4G coverage

But what about the existing Etisalat network? As far as the Etisalat customers are concerned nothing will change and they will not lose anything. The only change in the foreseeable future is Etisalat customers will gain access to 4G.

Speaking of 4G, you might be wondering why Hutch is talking about 4G coverage when other network operators are pushing for 5G. If so, you can check out our coverage on the subject from last year. The fact is, almost every smartphone entering the market now is 4G enabled, and the necessary infrastructure for 4G is set up and standardized. So while you may think Hutch is late to the party, the move to deploy 4G coverage across the island in reality, makes sense. Affordability is a key point here.

Hutch deploys NFV core network, expands 4G coverage 15

According to the TRC, as of December 2018, there are 32,528,104 mobile subscriptions in Sri Lanka. But only 5,733,062 have mobile broadband subscriptions. That means there are over 26,700,000 subscriptions that are still on 2G. That’s roughly 82.4%. It goes without saying that there’s still potential market growth for even 3G and 4G.

But what about 5G?

The global telecom industry is currently at the 4G standard. HUTCH believes that it would probably take until 2021 – 2022 for 5G to become the new norm. So it’s likely we’ll see a similar approach for 5G from Hutch.

Currently, there are only a handful of smartphones that are 5G enabled in the global market. They’re not exactly cheap either. At the time of writing, there aren’t even 5G handsets available in Sri Lanka for consumers. Sure, the other telecom operators are already competing for the fastest 5G speeds recorded. But it’s going to be a while for 5G handsets to become affordable. Until then, we will have to settle for 4G whether we like it or not.

Hutch Etisalat
Thirukumar Nadarasa – CEO of Hutchison Telecommunications Sri Lanka

Now that Hutch is aiming for complete islandwide 4G coverage, the likes of Dialog and Mobitel is bound to get higher competition. That’s actually a good thing. Higher competition in the market would essentially mean better rates and better service for the consumers. Here’s to better service.    

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