Nepalese mobile operator Spice Nepal has dropped its Mero Mobile brand name in favour of the moniker Ncell (‘N’ standing for Nepal), and unveiled a new marketing slogan ‘Here for Nepal’. The rebranding is driven by the firm’s majority shareholder, European giant TeliaSonera, which is looking to ‘redefine the concept of telecommunications’ in Nepal. Ncell chief executive Pasi Koistinen is quoted as saying: ‘People want to improve the quality of their lives with the help of telecommunication services … Being the pioneer in the market, we are trying to introduce innovative technology and innovative thinking.’ The Ncell official went on to say that the new brand name will help the company to meet its strategic goal of ‘targeting rural areas’ as it looks to become the leading mobile operator by subscribers. TeliaSonera Eurasia president Tero Kivisaari went on to say: ‘Our company is eager to make more investment in Nepal and expand its network. Localisation is very important, so we are working for long-term investment here and we think our investment will attract more investors.’
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Spice Nepal Private Ltd (SNPL) was established in 2000 as an Indian-Nepalese joint venture between Khetan group and Indian mobile company Modi Group (Spice India), with the aim of participating in a government tender for a licence to compete head-to-head with monopoly operator Nepal Telecom (NT). The consortium secured the concession in 2000, but faced numerous regulatory and politically motivated obstacles — not least from the government — possibly prompting the decision by Khetan to sell its stake to the Raj Group in 2002. Spice Nepal finally launched services on 17 September 2005 in Kathmandu and its environs, having awarded Siemens a USD29 million contract the previous month to build a nationwide GSM network with capacity for up to a million users over a period of two and a half years. By the end of 2009 the cellco has amassed more than 2.2 million subscribers – a figure it hopes to nearly double this year – and is also interested in rolling out 3G services.