Fibre optics monopoly slur on NT

Kathmandu, August 29:

Internet service providers of Nepal have accused the Nepal Telecommunication of attempting to monopolise the distribution of internet lines and fibre optic connections.

“Since NT has its own service provider, it is reluctant to promote the private sector’s initiative in distribution of internet service to the people,” Pawan Singh Shakya, president of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of Nepal told this daily.

NT had awarded the Nepal Telecom Authority (NTA), which acts as a regulatory body, a free hand in distributing internet lines and fibre optic connections. ISPAN alleges that NTA was fleecing private ISPs. “For instance, if someone is using NT line to dial from Ilam to Biratnagar, he will be charged local call price, but if that person is using our ISP he will be charged STD rates,” Shakya complained.

ISPAN feels that there is ‘no level-playing field’ for the players representing the private sector, who have not been able to offer service at a reasonable rate. “If NT could give optical fibre lines on lease to the private sector, the cost of internet service could go down considerably,” Mahendra Subedi, Public Relation Manager, Fibre On-line, said.

This correspondent tried in vain to contact Deputy General Manager of NT to discuss the matter.

Fibre optics has brought in revolution in internet distribution. A single hair-thin fibre is capable of transmitting trillions of bits per second. In addition to their huge transmission capacity, optical fibres offer a slew of advantages over electricity and copper wire. Fibres allow longer distances to be spanned before the signal has to be regenerated by expensive “repeaters.” Fibre installation is streamlined due to its dramatically lower weight and smaller size compared to copper cables.

The government of Nepal struck a deal with its Indian counterpart some five years ago when India laid fibre along 900 km of East-West Highway. The process of laying fibre was to continue along the entire highway, but was stalled thereafter. The NTA bars ISPs to have access from across the border. The ISPs cannot buy bandwidth from Indian companies via the fibre optic lines. “If NT allows us to go So-uth, we could bring bandwidth fr-om, say, Biratnagar or Birgunj. That could make our service cheaper by 70 per cent,” Subedi added.

Currently, the monthly tariff of 64 kbps leased line connectivity is fixed at Rs 18,000, while monthly tariff rate of unlimited and dedicated Internet access of 128 kbps through ISDN dial-up is fixed at Rs 13,600.