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Nepal Good Going  

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VoicenData Bureau
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Nepal covering an area of 147,181 sq km and a population of about 30 mn has a dazzling landscape with diverse and appetizing cultures. However the country struggles a bit on the economic front with half of the population living below the poverty line and the state suffering from severe shortage of skilled labor. Despite the odds the country's total teledensity stands at a fair category of 46% out of which cellular segment contributes 40%, and an internet penetration rate of 10% gives tough competition to its Saarc counterparts.

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Mobile

The mobile industry in the country is growing at a significant pace with 59% growth in FY11, the number of subscribers in the cellular segment has reached 11 mn as of July, 2011 which when compared to other Saarc nations is low but the rate at which the subscribers are growing is quite encouraging.

The country has 2 operators NDCL and NCELL in the mobile space which is quite less in comparison to the chunk of mobile operators delivering services in other Saarc nations.

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Nepal Telecom also known as Nepal Doorsanchar Company is the leading and the biggest government owned telecommunication company of the country boasting of having the major number of subscribers The company's total subscriber base grew by 23% in FY11 reaching 6.3 mn compared to 4.9 mn in FY10 and the number has even gone further to 6.7 mn as of July, 2011.

The company was the first one to establish telephone lines in the capital Kathmandu and controls 51% of the market share at present. Nepal Telecom has its cellular coverage in 39 districts of the country and has a total of 243 exchanges spread across the country with more than 6,ooo employees. The company provides both GSM and CDMA services in prepaid as well as postpaid format. The total GSM subscribers of NDCL as of July 2011 stood at 5 mn compared to 0.8 mn in the CDMA front.

Talking about 3G, the operator has installed WCDMA based 3G system offering 384 kbps of downloading speed and 64 kbps uploading speed, respectively. The 3G coverage area of the company covers Kathmandu valley, Banepa, Pokhera city and Lumbini and is in the process of expansion.

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The operator provides value added services like news, weather, horoscope, sms banking etc.

Ncell, on the other hand, got established in 2004 as the first private operator of providing mobile communication services in GSM standard and at present possesses 43% of the total market share. The company has been part of Telia Sonera, a European telecommunication company. The company's subscriber base had a gigantic growth of 110% in FY11 reaching 4.7 mn compared to 2 mn in FY10 and now holds an impressive 5.6 mn subscribers as of July 2011.

The operator provides GSM cellular services in both prepaid as well as postpaid segments and its voice services include call forwarding, call waiting, missed call notification, voice mail and conference call. While when it comes to data the operator's services includes Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), mobile internet (WAP/GPRS/EDGE) sms-to-Email, Short Message Service (SMS), Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), SMS banking and M2M.

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Ncell provides a flexible internet service by the name Ncell Connect via a data card. The service runs on Ncell's network providing the internet at HSPA and 3G speed reaching upto 3.6 Mbps. At present the operators has its 3G coverage area in 15 locations across the country. The company's internet packages ranges from 500 MB of usage to 5,000 MB.

Fixed and Broadband

The fixed phone industry on the other hand has reflected a minute growth of 2% in FY11 with the total number of subscribers reaching at 0.8 mn in July 2011. The fixed phone penetration rate still remains as low as 2.93%.

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The country has 5 operators providing the fixed phone services-NDCL, UTL, STM, NSTPL, and Smart-with NDCL having the major portion of the subscriber pie.

NDCL witnessed a small growth of 2% in the FY11 with subscribers reaching 0.76 mn compared to 0.74 mn in FY10. The company provides PSTN and WLL services with majority of the customers availing the PSTN services. The basic telephone services of the company include local calls, domestic telex, local leased lines, national trunk calls, international trunk calls, internet service etc.

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United Telecom (UTL) is a consortium of 4 companies-MTNL, TCIL, TCL, NVPL-involved together in a joint venture. The company provides WLL services in the country and has a subscriber base of 0.7 mn as of July 2011. UTL's coverage area lies in many districts of the country. STM, the other operator, provides PSTN services in the country with a subscriber base as low as 0.05 mn. The subscriber base of the company is growing though at the speed of a snail but steadily.

NSTPL and Smart have the lowest number of subscribers with 0.02 mn users in the WLL services of NSTPL and 598 customers in the PSTN services being provided by Smart.

Humungous Growth

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The country has witnessed a whopping growth of 221% in the internet subscribers in FY11 compared to FY10 with the total internet users now reaching 3 mn as of July 2011 compared to 0.7 mn in the year 2010. Nepal now has an impressive internet penetration rate of 10.89% which is enough to give a tough competition to its Saarc counterparts.

The 3 major internet service providers include NDCL, UTL and NCELL.

NDCL again being the leading operator of the country provides a variety internet services including dial up, GPRS, ADSL and CDMA 1X services with the majority of the users in the GPRS segment. The operator's internet subscribers have grown humongously with a growth of more than 350% in FY11 and its total subscriber base as of July 2011 accounts for 1 mn compared to a meager 0.1 mn in FY10.

UTL provides internet services in the CDMA 1X format and has gone through a growth of 67% in FY11 and the total number of users has touched the mark of 0.5 mn in July 2011. The company provides 4 different plans for surfing the net.

Ncell provides only GPRS services in the internet segment with the highest number of subscribers. The number of subscribers grew impressively by 200% in FY11 and now the company has about 18 mn users which make Ncell the leader in the GPRS space.

Nepal though being one of the smallest economies of the world has shown a significant growth in its telecom industry. With an encouraging growth in the mobile segment and with the internet boom uprising in the state, it is all set to become a tough competitor for its Saarc counterparts in the telecom space.

Rimit singh

rimits@cybermedia.co.in

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