NTA reports 2.1m mobile additions in a month; amends Telecoms Regulations

9 Jan 2012

Data published by the national regulator the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) shows that the mountain Kingdom was home to 14.75 million mobile subscribers at mid-November 2011, after net additions of 2.14 million new connections in the preceding month. At that date overall teledensity (fixed and mobile) stood at 55.41%, according to the NTA’s latest Management Information System report, as fixed lines reached 844,816 (including 228,305 WiLL lines).

Nepal Telecom (NT) added a net 130,000 mobile subscribers in the month to mid-November to boost its total to 7.18 million (including 857,981 CDMA users), while fellow GSM provider Ncell reported close to 6.69 million connections, having added a net 350,000 users in the month under review. Meanwhile, the country’s smaller players fared less well in terms of subscriber growth. United Telecom Limited reached reached 588,307 customers from 585,170 previously, Nepal Satellite Telecom upped its total from 97,280 to 98,985 and Smart Telecom had 193,064 users, up from 179,136 at mid-October.

At the same date the NTA said the total number of internet subscribers stood at 3.75 million, up from 3.59 million a month earlier, with the overwhelming majority (almost 3.44 million) arising from GPRS mobile internet connections. The number of ADSL connections topped 76,740 for NT, with cable modem and other (wireless, fibre-optic) reaching 16,898 and 30,397 respectively.

In a separate development, Nepalese newspaper MyRepublica writes that last Friday the Bills Committee of the cabinet endorsed the amendment to Telecommunication Regulations, raising the licence renewal period for all operators and ISPs to ten years. Until now, service providers have been required to renew their licences every five years. The decision came despite recommendations from both the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) that the government not effect any changes to local telecoms rules, particularly as they were investigating cases of possible anomalies concerning previous licence awards. The Bills Committee seemingly has disregarded this advice and even moved to endorse a provision that could pave the way for the introduction of a Unified Licensing Policy – a proposal still being pushed by the NTA even though the government rejected such a call four years ago.

Finally, the CIAA is also being called upon to carry out a study on the contentious allocation of frequencies for 2G and 3G mobile services, and to look into an ongoing issue of a possible ‘scam’ surrounding voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) telephony in Nepal. The Himalayan News Service reports that a sub-committee of the CIAA is being advised to bring former and current NTA board members into the spotlight of the investigation, and has also hinted it take action against government ministers. The sub-committee — formed on January 13, 2011 — has raised the issue of frequency allocation, 3G frequency distribution without charge, royalty disputes and different standards for different rural telecom service providers in its report.