eKantipur reports that rural telecom services provider Smart Telecom (Nepal), which is 70% owned by Lal Sahu Distributions Limited of Singapore, will today receive a unified licence from the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA). The telco plans to use the new concession to ‘soft launch’ GSM mobile services in the Kathmandu valley area within the next eight months, it says. At an NTA board meeting held last Thursday, the watchdog decided to issue new unified licences to Smart Telecom and fellow rural operator United Telecom Limited (UTL). The regulator hopes the move will level the playing field and help to improve competition in the sector. Following the NTA’s announcement, Smart Telecom wasted little time in paying its initial licence fees, stumping up NPR200 million (USD2.33 million) by way of a first instalment on Friday. According to the firm’s chief executive officer Subash Bajracharya, the company has also secured the necessary bank guarantee of NRP420 million laid down by the regulator. The watchdog is also confident that UTL will clear its fees in due course.
Mr Bajracharya added that in its initial launch phase, Smart Telecom plans to invest up to NPR4.5 billion to deploy a GSM network in the Kathmandu region, soft-launching services there within the next six to eight months. Smart Telecom originally acquired an operating licence to deliver basic telecom services in 398 village development committees (VDCs) of four development regions in Nepal — central, western, mid-western and far-western. It later expanded the service to other districts after obtaining a licence to provided limited mobility services. By April this year Smart Telecom counted around 600,000 customers.