Industry regulator the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) is reportedly planning to seek clarification from rural telecoms service provider United Telecom Limited (UTL), concerning its delay in actually purchasing the unified licence it was awarded in April this year. The watchdog claims that until UTL actually acquires the licence, the government is unable to put in place its planned auction of 3G mobile spectrum. eKantipur.com cites a senior figure within the NTA as saying that it is considering taking the matter to the watchdog’s board and may set a deadline for the telco to claim the concession. At the time of the licence award, UTL was required to make an immediate up-front payment of NPR102.7 million (USD1 million) as licence fee, provide a bank guarantee of NPR422.7 million and pay NPR47 million each year for up to nine years, after getting the unified licence. NTA spokesperson Kailash Prasad Neupane says though, that although it made the NPR102.7 million payment, it has singularly failed to correspond with the watchdog about any subsequent preparations to pay for the licence.
Under Nepal’s Telecommunication Service Radio Frequency (Distribution and Pricing) Policy 2012, the government set out a plan to auction 3G frequencies within one year of issuing at least two unified licences. However, only fellow operator Smart Telecom has actually taken its unified licence and the NTA is claiming that the policy dictates that the formal issuance of two unified licences is mandatory before an auction of 3G spectrum can take place. As per the 2012 policy, if at least two telecom operators fail to take their unified licence, 3G spectrum will instead be issued to Ncell, Nepal Telecom and Smart Telecom – at a price of NPR240 million for a 2×10 MHz block, per year, without auctioning.