NTA plans to check QoS of telcos soon

KATHMANDU: While the government has facilitated the expansion of telecommunication services to all nooks and corners of the country, ensuring good quality of the services have largely been ignored. Despite a long preparation, Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) has neither come up with quality of service (QoS) regulation nor bought drive test equipment, which are crucial for standardising the service quality.

It has been three years since NTA first revealed its plans to buy the modern drive test equipment to monitor the service quality of telecom companies. Likewise, the draft of the ‘Fixed and Mobile QoS Regulation 2013’ had been readied two years ago with the support of International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The regulation aims to promote consumer interests and encourage service providers to invest in their networks for the benefit of consumers. QoS of mobile service, the main voice service segment, has not improved despite series of instructions from the regulator in the past. In recent times, with the major operators being embroiled in interconnection row, there is also problem of congestion in interconnection, which is related to QoS as well.

NTA officials said that many plans, including QoS improvement, had faced delays as the post of the chairman in the regulating body of the telecom sector had remained vacant for nearly two years. Similarly, the authority says lack of manpower, especially only a few engineers, as another major drawback. Three months ago, the Development Committee of the Legislature-Parliament had directed the government to implement a legal provision that would penalise poor service providers and reward those who maintain good service.

A senior official at Nepal Telecom said they had been facing additional challenges in many areas to keep services running smoothly after the April 25 earthquake owing to damages to the network sites and pressure in removing towers in urban areas. For long, telecom companies have been saying load-shedding and cases of optical fibres being cut from time to time were the prime reasons for poor quality service.

Achyuta Nanda Mishra, assistant spokesperson for NTA, said that they were taking the issue of QoS seriously. “We are evaluating the proposal received to buy the drive test equipment,” he said, adding that as part of the programme to maintain good service quality, the authority is in the final stage of procuring spectrum analyser by signing an agreement with a supplier. The equipment will be used to test if there is any frequency interference and check if assigned spectrum is being used properly.

In the draft regulation, the ITU had suggested imposing fines ranging from Rs 1.5 million to Rs 3.5 million on service providers that fail to provide quality service. Before readying the draft, it had studied the Nepali market and regulatory weaknesses as part of its technical support to Nepal.

So far, the NTA has been carrying out QoS monitoring on the basis of QoS benchmark prepared by the authority itself in 2007. The draft regulation has mainly focused on monitoring and enforcement.