CIAA tells NTA to abandon unified licensing and stop issuing 3G frequencies

13 Dec 2011 reports that Nepal’s Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has ordered the country’s telecoms regulator, Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), to stop issuing 3G mobile frequencies to telecoms operators and to abandon its plan to implement a unified licensing scheme which would enable telcos to offer any type of service via a single concession. The journal quotes a source at CIAA as saying: ‘The decision was taken based on a complaint filed at the CIAA which said giving away 3G frequencies to telecom operators was inflicting huge revenue losses on the government and the plan to issue unified licence smacked of suspicious motive of serving certain groups’ vested interest.’

It is understood that in the wake of the complaint, two weeks ago the CIAA asked the secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communications – the authority to which the NTA the reports – to open an investigation into the complaints. However, with no response forthcoming it has decided to issue a formal order.

‘We have basically asked the NTA to stop allocating frequencies and put its plan of issuing unified licence on hold until the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) completes its investigation into the matter and issues an order,’ the CIAA source said. The agency says the NTA has already given privately-owned cellco Ncell a permanent block of 4MHz of 3G spectrum, following which Nepal Telecom asked for 8.4MHz of UMTS spectrum – initially awarded on a temporary basis – to be upgraded to a permanent award. The CIAA is concerned that by giving away frequencies without auctioning them, the NTA is costing the government millions in lost revenues. The Minister for Information and Communications, Jay Prakash Gupta, now argues that ‘the NTA had followed due process while allocating the 3G frequency to various companies.’