Pawan Shakya, former president of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of Nepal (ISPAN), notes that internet service providers (ISPs) in the country have lost 60% of their market share over the last five years, to telcos rolling out newer internet services at cheaper rates. eKantipur.com quotes Pawan Shakya as saying that in 2008, ISPs had around 80% of the segment, but that this figure has now slumped to just 20%, due to their limited service reach and the wider availability of advance services such as ADSL, CDMA2000 1x, EDGE/GPRS and W-CDMA/3G from telcos and mobile operators. Although there are more than 40 ISPs in the country, most of them are concentrated in urban areas providing wireless internet service. Adding to their woes, ISPAN claims that the quality of internet service offered by ISPs has also ‘degraded’ as they ‘were not given the opportunity to roll out services in updated technologies’. In a bid to compete with telecom companies, some ISPs such as World Link, Subisu Cable Net, Classic Tech and Vianet have launched a number of promotional schemes, while simultaneously launching a bid to force the government to provide them with technology-neutral spectrum to launch their own advanced services. Unconfirmed sources say that the regulator, the Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) is ‘considering’ a plan to offer WiMAX and other spectrum to ISPs through a competitive auction.
The announcement comes as state-owned telco Nepal Telecom (NT) readies itself to launch WiMAX to the general public from 27 March. The operator’s wireless broadband platform is currently only open to corporate customers in 49 districts across Nepal, but that is now set to change.