Nepalese alternative operator Nepal Satellite Telecom (NST) has announced its ambitions to relaunch the Hello Nepal brand in the mountain Kingdom. The ownership of NST is the subject of some speculation. In May this year European giant TeliaSonera, which already owns a controlling stake in another local wireless operator – Spice Nepal Private, trading as Ncell – acquired, albeit indirectly, 51% of the shares in Cypriot holding company Airbell Services, which itself owns a 50% stake in NST – owner of the Hello Nepal brand. The news of the purchase of the 51% stake was listed in TeliaSonera’s 2011 Annual Report, as part of its plan to strengthen its position in Nepal, but the transaction was a surprise to the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) and the company registrar’s office, neither of which had reportedly been notified.
Confusion over the ownership of NST aside, the Himalayan News Service writes that the carrier is hoping to continue offering the Hello Nepal brand as a cost-effective product, with a particular focus on targeting rural users with ‘simple’ telecoms services. Commenting on the development, NST chairman Mats Salomonsson said: ‘Nepal Satellite will benefit from having become part of the TeliaSonera Group which has over a hundred years of history and experience in telecommunications and a strong commitment to a long-term investment in Nepal.’ With the international firm’s backing, NST has already begun planning for further investment works and network expansion in the country, he added. ‘For operational and environmental efficiency, we are considering sharing NST’s base stations with Ncell, wherever possible, as both companies operate in the same GSM standard,’ Salomonsson said, adding that the carrier intends to update the regulator of its plans in order to secure the necessary approvals.