Sri Lanka's Dialog Axiata is determined to be at the forefront of 5G development in South Asia.
The operator recently carried out its first 5G test in the region and has also worked on trials of massive MIMO (for multiple input, multiple output) technology, whereby numerous antennas are added to transmitter and receiver devices to boost performance. It previously claimed to have been the first operator in South Asia to launch 3G and 4G services.
“We wanted our customers to get a glimpse of what 5G can do," said Pradeep de Almeida, Dialog's chief technology officer.
During a recent demonstration, Dialog Telekom showed off a whole range of 5G-related technologies, including massive MIMO, cloud RAN, IoT-based smart parking, real-time 4K video streaming, virtual reality and industry automation based on robotics.
A commercial launch of 5G is still some way off, not least because technology standards have yet to be frozen and frequencies made available. But while "ecosystem readiness" will determine exactly when 5G can be launched, Dialog has already started to upgrade its network in preparation.
"We already have an end-to-end IP transport network which can be easily upgraded to support the 5G requirements," says de Almeida. "We have already started implementing massive MIMO basestations and SDN/NFV-based core and transport networks. But the final radio and core network readiness for a commercial launch will depend on the standardization and frequency harmonization timelines."
The operator also faces some key challenges as it gets ready for a 5G launch. "It is becoming tough to keep pace on network developments due to various site acquisition and development related issues," says de Almeida. "Also, retaining the right talent is becoming an issue for various reasons."
In a sign of its technology ambition, Dialog recently launched a voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) service across its 4G network, which spans more than 1,500 sites in all 25 districts of Sri Lanka.
But it is looking to a range of services for sales growth in future. "Voice is not going to be the main revenue generator going forward," says de Almeida. "We believe the growth is going to come from other avenues including an increase in the consumption of data and video services, and from newer use cases based on connected devices, big data, advertisements, fintech and artificial intelligence."
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading