Nepal’s target of achieving 15 telephone lines per 100 people by 2014 looks set to be reached seven years ahead of schedule, thanks to the aggressive expansion plans of the country’s telecoms operators. According to an article in The Himalayan Times, state run telco Nepal Telecom (NT) is spearheading the charge, unveiling an ambitious programme to increase teledensity to 20% in the next three years. Adding in the work being done by Nepal’s private operators, this figure could increase to up to 25 lines per 100 people, almost double the government target, and significantly higher than the 6% figure reported at end-2006 and just 1% two years ago.
Commenting on the company’s plans, NT spokesperson Surendra Rasa Thike said: ‘If we could meet the current demand, the target would be met even before 2009. The infrastructure development and operational costs have heavily come down in recent years with the advent of the new technology of CDMA.’ To date, NT has rolled out 1.3 million telephone connections including 500,000 PSTN lines, 100,000 CDMA phones and 700,000 GSM mobile phones. Moreover it has announced a global tender for an additional 3.5 million GSM mobile phone connections, to be distributed within the next three years.
Elsewhere, private GSM mobile phone operator Spice Nepal, which offers services under the Mero Mobile brand, says it has 450,000 subscribers, while another private basic telecom operator United Telecom Ltd has begun offering services outside the capital city Kathmandu Valley. Despite the great strides being taken, however, there remains a disparity between the high levels of coverage provided in the cities and the underdeveloped rural regions, which are deprived of basic telecoms access.