NTA may terminate optical fibre laying pact

Kathmandu, September 10

Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) has warned that it will terminate the optical fibre laying contract with Nepal Telecom (NT), United Telecom Ltd (UTL) and Smart Telecom if these telecom operators fail to make tangible progress in the project within the next two months.

Talking to The Himalayan Times, Digambar Jha, chairman of NTA, informed that none of the aforementioned telecom firms have made desirable progress in optical fibre laying projects assigned to them, thereby compelling NTA to take necessary action.

Jha was reappointed to the top post of NTA on Friday.

“We will set a certain work completion target and give these firms two months to accomplish the target. If they fail to accelerate the fibre laying projects accordingly, we will terminate contracts with each of them,” informed Jha.

With an intention to develop information superhighway in the country, NTA had signed an agreement with NT in September 2016 to lay the fibre network in Provinces 1, 2 and 3; with UTL in April 2017 to lay the fibre network in Provinces 4 and 5; and with Smart telecom in September 2017 to lay the fibre network in Provinces 6 (Karnali) and 7.

As per the agreement signed with these telecom firms, NT must complete the optical fibre laying process by September this year, while UTL and Smart Telecom must complete their projects by April and September next year, respectively.

Sadly, NT has just completed the tender process while Smart Telecom and UTL have not started the construction work of the project yet, as per Jha. Both UTL and Smart Telecom have just received the right of way permission to lay the optical fibre from the Department of Roads.

If these firms cannot take forward the designated projects in a desired manner, NTA should bring foreign firms for the project, opines Jha. However, bringing in foreign firms for the optical fibre laying projects, which are being funded through the Rural Telecommunications Development Fund (RTDF), will need a few amendments in laws as existing legal provisions state that NTA must use RTDF through local operators to increase people's access to telecommunication services.

Citing technical problems, Nepal Telecom had cancelled its first tender for optical fibre and had published a retender for the project, thereby delaying the project by several months. NTA had awarded the contract to NT to lay the optical fibre network in 32 districts or 2,376 kilometres along the Mid-Hill Highway.

The project awarded to NT costs almost Rs 4.88 billion. Similarly, the cost of laying optical fibre along sections assigned to UTL and Smart Telecom hovers around Rs 2.1 billion and Rs 3.94 billion, respectively.

Meanwhile, officials of NT and Smart Telecom have vowed to expedite the optical fibre projects. “We have already begun optical fibre laying process and will complete the project within time,” informed an official of Smart telecom.

Similarly, Shovan Adhikari, spokesperson for NT, informed that while NT will not be able to meet the set deadline, it is now in a position to expedite the project as the bidding process has been completed and necessary project equipment have been purchased.