King lifts ban on Indian joint venture

18 Jul 2005

King Gyanendra of Nepal has given the green light to Indian-Nepalese joint venture United Telecom Ltd (UTL) after a five-month suspension following the state’s communications shutdown. UTL’s fixed-wireless infrastructure was deemed a threat by the King as users’ handsets could be adapted and used by Maoist insurgents as mobile phones. UTL is run by the country’s first private fixed line operator, Nepal Venture Private, in partnership with India’s Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) and Telecommunications Consultants India. After pressure from the Indian government, the authorities allowed UTL to resume operations in the last week of April, but the business was effectively frozen as it was only allowed to resume selling telephone lines from 15 July.

Meanwhile, Nepal Telecom (NT) has announced it is resuming the sale of new mobile phone contracts, after receiving permission last week from the Department of Information. The state-owned telco also said that it would reactivate out-of-service post-paid phones in Pokhara and Biratnagar yesterday. All mobile phone services were suspended on 1 February 2005 as part of a security clampdown after Gyanendra seized power in a military coup. Post-paid services in Kathmandu resumed from the first week of May after a re-registration process for all contract subscribers, but nearly 175,000 pre-paid mobiles registered with NT still remain inactive.