NTA awards ILD licences to NST, STPL violating procedure

31 May 2011

Nepal’s telecoms watchdog the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) has issued International Long Distance (ILD) licences to rural telecom operators Nepal Satellite Telecom (NST) and Smart Telecom Private Limited (STPL), allowing them to operate gateway services, but apparently without following due process. Online news portal MyRepublica.com writes that the regulator had set up an independent committee to find out if the telcos, which are currently designated as rural telecom service providers, had fulfilled the necessary conditions for securing the permission to offer ILD gateway services. ‘The report clearly states that these operators haven’t fulfilled the required pre-condition for ILD gateway [facilities],’ an NTA source said.

Under the terms of its rural operator licence NST is required to provide services to 273 village development committees (VDCs) in the Kingdom’s mid-western development region, and to provide coverage of 50% of the population there to meet local demand. Meanwhile, STPL is required to provide service in 398 VDCs of different regions excluding the eastern development region. ‘Smart Telecom is yet to cover 28 VDCs,’ the source reportedly said. MyRepublica.com says that NTA chairman Bhesh Raj Kandel denies that any rules were broken and claims the awards were made after studying the report of the committee. Further, he argues that NST would have been granted its ILD gateway licence a year ago had NTA bowed down to the pressure from the operator. The two firms could now start using ILD gateway services after making the NPR65 million (USD890,000) licence fee.

In a separate development, the NTA has recommended the government to revoke so-called ‘hoarded spectrum’ for any frequencies left unused for more than two years. Bhesh Raj Kandel is quoted as saying: ‘In order to discourage the frequency hoarding tendencies, the government should set standards for spectrum allocation … Big operators have occupied spectrum inefficiently and are reluctant to surrender extra spectrum. He went on to note that the current spectrum assignment method is ineffective and inefficient. ‘The authority has suggested the ministry to re-farm spectrum by utilising spectrum efficiently, making spectrum available to needy ones and reorganising 3G spectrum,’ he told The Himalayan Times.