Year 2021
April 2021

The Nepal Telecommunications Authority said it was preparing the terms and conditions to allow pre-commercial tests.

The Nepal Telecommunications Authority said it was preparing the terms and conditions to allow pre-commercial fifth-generation (5G) cellular technology tests after receiving an in-principle approval from the cabinet last month, officials said.

The telecom regulator said that once the terms and conditions were ready, it would give the go-ahead to state-owned Nepal Telecom to begin the trials. They will be conducted in different cities for a year without any charge to subscribers.

Nepal is racing to become the first country in South Asia to offer super fast connectivity. The 5G technology standard for cellular broadband networks offers faster connections, higher throughput and more capacity than 4G, and will benefit areas of high traffic such as public places.

The 5G tests are expected to start by the beginning of the next fiscal year, that is, mid-July. The 5G wireless mobile networks will be rolled out for tests in Kathmandu and three other major cities.

An industry insider complained that the government was adopting a ‘protectionist policy’ by unilaterally selecting a state-owned company to roll out the 5G project without holding a 5G spectrum auction or inviting competitive bidding.

Private telecom service provider Ncell has also applied for the 5G trial.

“We are hoping that 5G cellular technology will be a reality in the next few months, but its mass adoption could be years away,” said Min Prasad Aryal, director of the authority.

He added that the regulator would soon determine the conditions under the policy provisioned by the Radio Frequency Policy Determination Committee of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology.

“The terms and conditions will address technical, business, service and quality issues, including the operation modality,” Aryal said. “The authority will give approval to conduct 5G trial operations with conditions.”

“We will discuss with Nepal Telecom about which band they are planning to use,” he said. “The 5G bands can be used on the existing ones. As per the technology-neutral principle policy, the operator can use 3G, 4G or 5G on the same band by obtaining permission from the authority.”

According to the official, 5G technology will be tested using different bands. “The suitable ones will be selected,” said Aryal. The 5G trials may take two-three months or even a year.

The committee in mid-March decided to issue permission for trial operation of 5G technology. The telecom operator cannot charge customers during the trial period, and it will not have to pay any frequency charge, it said.

After the decision by the committee, the authority has been working on the terms and conditions for trial operations.

“Overall issues will be tested during the trial phase, and the operator will need to submit a report to the authority after it is over,” said Aryal. “On the basis of the report, we will provide permission for commercial use,” he added.

On February 1, the authority had submitted a proposal to the National Frequency Determining Committee under the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology to allow 5G operation in the country.

Nepal currently has 4G networks that were established in January 2017.

According to Nepal Telecom, 4G service has reached all 77 districts in the country, covering 654 local units, or 85 percent of the population. The authority said that 75 percent of the population used devices that are 4G supportive.

According to a management and information system report by the authority, broadband penetration had expanded to 82.79 percent of the population as of mid-January 2021. Mobile broadband subscription has reached 60.34 percent of the population with a total of 18.02 million mobile broadband users in the country where 6.68 million are 4G users.

Dilli Ram Adhikari, managing director of Nepal Telecom, said they would start the process to procure equipment for 5G services once the company gets the approval from the authority. He added that the company would order the materials from the company that they have been using. “We expect it will take 90 days for the equipment to arrive once we place the order.”

According to reports, Hong Kong, Seoul, Sydney, Taipei, Manila, Tokyo and Shenzhen have already introduced 5G networks. In May 2020, Bangkok became the first city in Southeast Asia to roll out a 5G network, while Singapore in August started a six-month trial.

Nepal okays in-flight WiFi

KATHMANDU: The Nepal Telecommunications Authority has permitted international airlines serving Nepal to provide in-flight WiFi services to passengers, becoming the third South Asian country after India and Afghanistan to provide this facility.

“The decision made on March 22 allows airlines, in accordance with the guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, to turn on the WiFi after the aircraft climbs to above 10,000 feet,” said Purushottam Khanal, chairman of the authority. The service has not been allowed on domestic airlines because domestic flights operate below 10,000 feet.

“People taking an international flight have to sit in an airplane for hours. WiFi connectivity will enable passengers to benefit from modern communication systems. Airlines need to take permission from the authority to use in-flight internet services over Nepali territory.”

In-flight connectivity systems use two kinds of technologies—an onboard antenna picks up signals from the nearest tower on the ground, and unless the aircraft is flying over a large space with no towers, the connection will remain seamless up to a certain altitude.

Satellites can be used to connect to ground stations in the same way that satellite TV signals are transmitted. Data is transmitted to a personal electronic device through an onboard router, which connects to the plane’s antenna. The antenna transmits the signals, through satellites, to a ground station, which redirects the traffic to a billing server that calculates the data consumption, according to reports.

“Domestic airlines conducting flights that go above 10,000 feet can apply for the service,” Khanal said. “Allowing internet connections above 10,000 feet will not affect connections on the ground.” Khanal said.

He said that SITA, a multinational company providing information and technology and telecommunication services to the air transport industry, had approached the authority to use the internet onboard. “We are yet to approve the permit,” he added.

Source: by Krishana Prasain

Feature image: Shutterstock