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Nepal Telecom’s plan to expand 4G service still ‘undecided’

Though the government had been citing that the delay in the expansion of Nepal Telecom (NT)’s 4G service was due to the lingering probe on the expansion of the service by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the government has not been able to expedite the project even though the anti-graft body has already given a clean chit on the issue.

The CIAA had suspected anomalies in the tender process and had launched an investigation.

Concluding the almost year-long probe on NT’s 4G equipment procurement process, the CIAA in the first week of October had directed the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MoCIT), NT’s parent ministry, to take necessary legal decisions to expedite the rollout plan of 4G. However, the project is yet to move ahead as projected earlier.

Prior to the CIAA probe into the issue, Nepal Telecom had invited bids from international companies to expand 4G service across the country and two separate tender notices for the procurement of base transceiver stations and the core network to facilitate 4G transmission had been published. Though different international firms had submitted bids the process was stalled due to the CIAA probe.

“There have been no developments in the 4G expansion plan as of today. However, the project will go ahead as per existing laws guiding NT and the direction and decision of MoCIT,” informed Prativa Baidhya, spokesperson for Nepal Telecom.

Meanwhile, the 4G expansion plan of NT has also been hit because of the government’s inability to fill the vacant top post of the state-owned telecom company. The managing director’s post has been lying vacant since the government sacked Kamini Rajbhandari citing her incompetence.

However, officials at MoCIT have said that the government will take necessary steps to expand 4G service of NT aggressively based on the direction of CIAA. “NT’s 4G expansion will gain momentum within the next few weeks,” informed an official at MoCIT.

Nepal Telecom was the first telecom company to launch 4G service in Nepal in 2017. However, Ncell, a private telecom company, which had launched 4G almost five months later, has expanded the service to more than two dozen cities across the country while 4G service of NT has been limited to Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara.

There are around 1.86 million 4G subscribers in Nepal. Of these, 1.19 million are using Ncell’s service, 621,023 have subscribed to NT’s service and 43,887 are using Smart Telecom’s service.

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