Telcos disconnected on interconnection

Kathmandu, July 1

The two major telecom companies — Nepal Telecom (NT) and Ncell — have entangled themselves over interconnection issue. The dispute has heated up to such a point that Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) — the telecom sector regulator — has formed a task force to look into the tangled mess and recommend a solution.

In a complaint filed by Ncell at NTA, the company has stated that NT reduced its interconnection capacity after the April 25 earthquake. This means NT had squeezed down its domestic interconnection, which made it difficult for Ncell customers to make calls to NT numbers. After receiving the grievance, the authority had instructed NT to end the practice.

A source at NTA said that instead of complying with the regulator’s instruction, NT had taken the battle to another level by reporting Ncell was creating congestion in interconnection for international calls.

Meanwhile, Smart Telecom has also complained to NTA about Ncell not establishing connection for international interconnection and creating congestions in domestic calls.

Interconnection is also one of the major sources of income for operators. In telecommunications, interconnection is a physical connection between two operators that allows a user from one network to make or receive a call from another operator’s network.

As per the Interconnection Guideline implemented in 2008, interconnection between telecom companies should be ‘on an equitable and non-discriminatory basis’ enabling any customer to communicate with any other customer seamlessly based on any-to-any principle, as per the guideline.

Similarly, as per the service quality parameter fixed by NTA, congestion at the Point of Interconnection (PoI) between two operators must be less than one per cent. This means, for example, out of 100 calls attempted from company A to B, 99 calls have to be connected. PoI is a point at or between tandem switches which demarcates the network of the telecom companies and is a point through which communication is transferred between the interconnecting networks.

“A three-member task force under the coordination of Arjun Ghimire, deputy director of NTA, was formed recently to look into the interconnection issue,” said the source, adding the team includes Assistant Directors Achyuta Nanda Mishra and Roja Kiran of the regulatory body and it would recommend a solution to NTA.

Based on the terms of reference given to the task force, it will study the dispute between NT and Ncell, Smart Telecom’s issue and current status of interconnectivity between all six telecom service providers.

As the directive of 2008 was focused more on domestic interconnection, the team is also likely to suggest NTA to revise it incorporating issues related to international interconnection with focus on operators that have only been enjoying income from terminating international calls rather than expanding service.