VDCs wait for telephone extended

Kathmandu, January 20:

Government’s ambitious plan of connecting all village development committees (VDCs) with basic telephone services is not likely to be met during the Tenth Plan 2002-07.

Nepal Telecom (NT), the state-owned telecom service provider, has informed the government that the plan of connecting all VDCs with telephone cannot be met by the mid-July 2007, end of the Tenth Plan. NT has cited insurgency and security situation that halted the expansion programmes for the delay.

So far, about 2,000 VDCs have basic telephone services out of 3,912 VDCs in the

country. NT plans to expand telecom services to the remaining 1,912 VDCs within two years, if everything goes as planned, and peace and security is ensured. This means all VDCs will have telephone facility by 2009.

According to sources, the NT has chalked out a huge expansion plan targeting rural and remote areas through wireless telephone based on CDMA (code division multiple access) technology and GSM pre-paid cellular mobile services.

Some of the remotest areas will be connected using telephones based on VHF, Marts and V-SAT technology.

Repair and maintenance work on physical infrastructure, which were destroyed during insurgency, is going on a war footing. Telephone services have already resumed at over a dozen places.

The recent political change has raised hopes of lasting peace and stability in the country, which will be crucial for expansion activities, said Sugat Ratna Kansakar, managing director at Nepal Telecom. NT is aggressively working towards expanding its capacity and enhancing the quality of its services.

“Although we won’t be able to cover all the VDCs within the targeted period of the Tenth Plan, we are hopeful to extend at least one telephone line for each VDC within the next two years,” Kansakar informed.

NT officials have claimed that telephone services through CDMA technology would be very appropriate and popular in remote villages. Besides its popularity, the installation and infrastructure development costs are comparatively lesser than in conventional landline telephones, officials said.

Following the deregulation of the telecom sector and conversion of NT into a limited company as well as opening up of the sector to private players has brought about a revolution in the telecommunication sector in the country. As a result, Nepal’s tele-density has increased to five per cent in the last four years, from an earlier 1.8 per cent.

According to NT, there are over 600,000 basic telephone lines, whereas GSM cellular mobile users are over one million, throughout the country.

The government has set up a policy of investing 15 per cent of the total investment by all service providers for the expansion of telecom services to rural areas. The service providers also need to contribute two per cent of their total income into the Rural Telecom Fund, which the government is to invest on expanding services to rural areas.