Nepal’s recently anointed Minister for Information and Communications Shankar Pokharel has warned that the government may license a third mobile network operator if current incumbents Nepal Telecom and Spice Nepal Private Limited (SNPL, or Mero Mobile) do not improve their service quality. The statement from the head of the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) comes amid growing dissatisfaction with the poor quality of services being provided by the two operators. The Republica newspaper quotes the minister as saying: ‘It is the responsibility of the telecom company to provide the best quality of service to the consumers whether by upgrading the technology or hiring qualified human resources who know how to fix the problems.’ He went on to say, ‘If they fail to come up with a solution, the government will have to resort to the option of bringing in another telecom company to enhance competition and give the quality of service that people desire.’
Under local telecoms laws, the state is barred from issuing a new mobile licence until a new operator – in this case Spice Nepal – has been in business for five years. Although the operator of the Mero Mobile brand has yet to reach this milestone, Pokharel’s warning suggest the government could veto this provision, if existing players fail to live up to the population’s expectations. A survey by the regulator the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) in September 2007 found that 66% of calls made from NT cell phones had ‘encountered problems’. Although the figure for Spice Nepal was just 8.52%, since then its subscribers have complained of a significant deterioration in service quality.