Fuel shortage hits Ncell’s services

Kathmandu, January 20

Ncell, the largest private sector telecom company, may be forced to shut down its operation if it fails to secure adequate fuel to power its data centres in the next few days.

Although the government has identified telecom companies as essential service providers, Ncell has complained it has not been getting adequate supply of diesel regularly from Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), and the available stock is fast running out.

As a result, Ncell has been facing problems in operating its data centres, which are crucial for processing cellphone calls and managing traffic.

“We now have fuel for only three days. After that we will have to shut down our services,” Ncell CEO Erim Taylanlar told a meeting of Parliamentary Committee on Development yesterday.

After hearing the complaint, Development Committee Chairman Rabindra Adhikari had issued verbal instruction to Information and Communications Minister Sherdhan Rai — who was also present on the occasion — to immediately address the problem.

“But we have not heard from the concerned authorities so far,” Milan Mani Sharma, corporate communications expert at Ncell, told The Himalayan Times. “We hope the problem would be resolved soon.”

Ncell operates four data centres in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Biratnagar and Hetauda. These data centres were getting round-the-clock power supply via dedicated feeder lines of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) after the devastating earthquake hit the country on April 25. The government had extended this facility to ensure minimum interruption in telecommunications services of Ncell.

But on January 8, dedicated feeder lines connected to data centres of Kathmandu and Hetauda were disconnected.

The lines were cut off a day after some of the lawmakers complained that profit-making companies were being extended uninterrupted power supply through dedicated feeder lines, while the country was reeling under load-shedding of over 14 hours. This complaint was made during a meeting of Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts held on January 7.

Although the plug on Ncell’s dedicated feeder lines was pulled right after the complaint was made, its competitor, state-owned Nepal Telecom — also a profit-making company — still enjoys round-the-clock power supply from NEA. NEA officials could not be contacted.

Despite this, Ncell has said it wants to continue providing quality services using diesel generators. But it has been complaining that NOC is not distributing adequate fuel to the company.

Earlier, Nepal Telecommunications Authority had written to NOC stating adequate supply of diesel be extended to Ncell. Since then, the firm has received 20,000 litres of fuel. But after that NOC has refrained from providing additional fuel, Ncell said.

Ncell says it needs around 4,500 litres of diesel per day just to power its data centre in Kathmandu.