Bureaucracy and red tape stifling Nepal’s rural telecom development

27 Jan 2012

The Himalayan Times reports that despite an increase in the number of telecoms providers contributing to Nepal’s Rural Telecom Development Fund, the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) has so far struggled to use the monies raised to improve telecom access to rural parts of the country. According to NTA director Purushottam Khanal, the nation’s telcos have added a total of NPR4.25 billion (USD54.1 million) to the Fund – including NPR22 million in the first half of the current fiscal year – with contributions coming from Nepal Telecom, Ncell, UTL, Nepal Satellite and STM. The sixth operator, Smart Telecom, will not have to contribute to the Fund until the next fiscal year according to its licence. However, consecutive governments are accused of failing to utilise the Fund as promised, due in large part to a lack of inter agency coordination between the NTA and the Ministry of Information and Communication.

The NTA has mooted an ambitious District Optical Fibre Network Programme to construct a high speed data service offering 256kbps bandwidth in 38 districts and their rural communities by 2014, the official said. The plan has secured USD6 million in funding from Asian Development Bank for the voice over broadband (VoB) component of the project – as part of the Information and Communication Technology Development Project’s total budget of USD25 million – but a lack of government initiative means the fibre-optic rollout will not be realised until 2014 at the earliest, Purushottam Khanal said.