Number of GSM mobile users doubles to 10.7m

KATHMANDU, AUG 10 -

The number of GSM mobile subscribers almost doubled during the last fiscal year to reach 10.7 million. There were 6.8 million cell phone users in Nepal in 2009-10.

Nepal Telecom and Ncell added 3.9 million new mobile subscribers during fiscal 2010-11. Privately owned Ncell attracted 2.7 million new mobile users while state-owned Nepal Telecom added 1.2 million subscribers.

Officials at the Nepal Telecommunications Authority said that a decline in tariff, competition between the two operators and increased dependency on cell phones led to the surge in the number of mobile owners.

“Subscriptions have increased rapidly over the last two years as a result of competition among operators,” said a high-level official at the authority. “However, the quality of service is still below the standard in the GSM segment compared with fixed lines.”

In an effort to find out the real situation of the telephone services being provided by the operators, the authority is doing a survey in four major cities, Kathmandu, Pokhara, Biratnagar and Nepalgunj, with a focus on mobile services.

In the current fiscal year, the authority is planning to conduct a study of the service quality of basic telecom and mobile services in remote and urban areas and has set aside a budget of Rs 2.1 million for the purpose.

GSM mobile being the major communication service, occupies more than 80 percent market share in domestic telecom service. With the increased subscriptions of the GSM mobile service, mobile penetration in the country too has increased to over 40 percent of total population.

A monthly breakdown of the expansion in the subscriber base in the last fiscal year reveals that Ncell added the highest number of users, more than 300,000, during the period mid-February to mid-March 2011. This was also the period when Ncell toppled the state-owned telecom giant from the number one position in the GSM segment.

Sanju Koirala, corporate communication manager of Ncell, said that they had been able to achieve this massive surge in subscriptions because of the quality of the network and innovative offers. “We will expand to all the districts by the end of 2011 and cover over 90 percent of the country’s population,” she added.

Nepal Telecom has recently called a global tender for the largest GSM project till date, prompted by increased demand for mobile services and neck-to-neck race with Ncell. The state-owned company plans to add 10 million mobile lines in the next four years. The project will also have lines for 3G and 4G services.