Nationwide broadband service by 2020

KATHMANDU, June 27: If things go as per plan, broadband service will be available nationwide at a cheaper cost, including in rural areas within five years. All village development committees (VDCs) will have wired or wireless broadband connection by the end of 2020.

This is one of the targets set by the government in the National Broadband Policy. The policy, focused on broadband infrastructure development and increasing access to high-speed internet services, was endorsed by the Cabinet in April and Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) made it public recently.

According to the policy, the cost of broadband service will be brought down to five per cent of GNI per capita and its coverage will increase to 45 per cent households by 2018, and internet connection with a speed of up to 10Mbps will be made available in urban areas. Similarly, all district headquarters will be linked with optical fibre connection within three years.

Expansion of optical fibre to district level is a must to take broadband service to the VDC level. There are 3,276 VDCs. Going by the old plan under the District Optical Fibre Programme, the government was supposed to complete the task of setting up optical fibre in district headquarters by 2014 to make high-speed internet affordable. At present, the cost of broadband service is around 17 per cent of per capita income, which stood at an estimated Rs 71,305 in the last fiscal year.

Earlier, in the draft of the policy, the government had planned to bring down the cost of entry-level broadband connection to 3.5 per cent of per capita income. Internet service with speed of 512Kbps is known as entry-level broadband service, as per the policy.

“Until the optical fibre connection is expanded nationwide beyond district level, cost of internet cannot come down as targeted in the policy,” said an official at Ministry of Information and Communications.

The official said as rural areas are less commercially viable, government should work on building infrastructure for common use in such areas and promote infrastructure sharing among existing service providers.

For long, NTA has been planning to use its resources reserved in Rural Telecommunications Development Fund for building optical fibre infrastructure. However, its plan failed to move ahead due to legal hurdles.

In the policy, the government has also targeted to connect 80 per cent of health posts of the country with broadband and take this service to all district-level government offices within 2020 to promote e-governance. As per NTA officials, they have plans like making available spectrum that does not require permission for making service available in un-served areas and ensure frequency for International Mobile Telecommunications and IMT Advanced technology-based services.