Over the barrel, UTL closes down Net service

KATHMANDU: Telecom service provider United Telecom Ltd (UTL) due to lack of frequency has stopped its internet services in Kathmandu, Dharan, Pokhara, Biratnagar and Birgunj. There are around 32,000 UTL customers using the UTL-based internet service. It has in total 2.35 lakh customers.

It’s six years UTL since started its service in Nepal under joint venture of Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), Telecommunication Consultants India Ltd (TCIL), Tata Communications Ltd and Nepal Ventures Pvt Ltd. With a total investment of more than Rs six billion. MTNL has a total share of 26.68 per cent, TCIL 26.66 per cent, Tata Communications Ltd 26.66 per cent and Nepal Ventures Pvt Ltd 20 per cent, said UTL general manager Madan Singh.

Currently, UTL has extended its services to 36 districts and has full highway coverage. It has plans to extend its service to all 75 districts within six months.

Since 2003 UTL has till date paid tax Rs 5 billion, according to Singh. “Though there is high demand for UTL services, due to lack of sufficient frequency we have had to stop the internet service to maintain network quality,” he said adding, “We lack enough frequency so quantity does not matter. We want to give quality network, and that is why we stopped the internet service.”

Since two years UTL has been asking NTA to grant it two carriers but NTA has turned a deaf ear to the plea. Singh said UTL needs additional fequency to improve service quality and fulfil growing customer demand. Currently, it has only two frequencies of total 2.5 Mega Hertz (MHz) — meaning one carrier has 1.25 MHz. “We have been repeatedly urging NTA and the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) for additional frequency but to no avail,” said Singh adding that

UTL is in overhaul and reform process and the lack of additional frequency is hurting operations and business.

However, NTA scoffed at the allegations saying they were baseless as UTL demanded the frequency only when there was no frequency left. UTL provides the cheapest call rate to India at Rs 3 per minute excluding taxes, said Singh. Recently it has introduced new call rates for other countries.