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‘NT will aggressively enhance its data service this year’

Managing Director of Nepal Telecom, Kamini Rajbhandari shares how she has planned to enhance NT’s services and other existing legacies in the coming days, at Bhadrakali in Kathmandu, on Sunday, October 2. Photo: Balkrishna Thapa Chhetri/THT

Kamini Rajbhandari was recently appointed as the Managing Director of Nepal Telecom. One of the 13 contestants vying for the post, Rajbhandari also became the first woman to serve NT as its head. Talking to Sujan Dhungana of The Himalayan Times, Rajbhandari shared how she has planned to enhance NT’s services and other existing legacies in the coming days.

What was your immediate feeling after being appointed managing director of Nepal Telecom?

I was delighted. The appointment meant a lot to me because I was appointed for the post through an open competition. However, a feeling of additional responsibility came to my mind immediately after I was appointed for the post.

How have you planned to enhance NT’s services during your three-year tenure?

First of all I will put all my effort to continue the legacy of NT. I will maintain the trust that customers have placed on Nepal Telecom. In a bid to further enhance NT’s brand loyalty, I will emphasise on improving the quality in the services that NT currently provides. Likewise, the other top priority during my tenure will be to take NT’s existing services and new services to every nook and corner of the country by expanding our network.

Can you name a few new services that are in the offing?

We plan to begin services like video-on-demand and IP TV targeting our customers. NT will also roll out several other new services to remain competitive. To expand the current services that NT provides, we have a plan to expand our fibre-to-the-home services by replacing existing copper wires with optical fibre.

NT’s competitiveness is questioned at times due to problems in network and recharge system. How will you address this setback?

We have been upgrading the network system to ensure that customers do not face network problem. We are on the verge of adding network points in different densely populated areas to address the network issue. For sporadic network disturbance due to technical factors, we have also placed our technical team in an alert position so that the problem is solved immediately after it occurs. Regarding the recharge problem, NT is emphasising on paperless recharging. Customers can recharge through different bank applications, internet and electronic recharge machines that NT has placed in different places of Kathmandu Valley and outside the Valley. Also, comparatively we have provided more discount to those who avoid paper recharge and utilise any of the above other means. Recharging through electronic system, bank applications and internet is more reliable.

Similarly, ADSL service that NT provides has come in for huge criticism from customers. How do you plan to strengthen this service?

The current ADSL system uses a comparatively old technology and that is one of the reasons why our service has not been up to the mark and we have been receiving criticism. We are gradually preparing to displace this technology with a new and latest one like IPPS and others. Similarly, NT is planning to fit access gateways close to its customer locations across different places of the country to ensure smooth ADSL internet service. Meanwhile, problems in ADSL also arise because of lack of proper knowledge among subscribers regarding its connection system. To address this issue we are also planning to launch a campaign among subscribers.

NT is on the verge of getting a licence from Nepal Telecommunications Authority — the telecommunications regulator — to roll out 4G service in Nepal. When can customers expect this service to start?

Not only customers, NT is also equally desperate to launch 4G service in the country. The beginning of 4G service here in Nepal will be another milestone in the country’s telecommunication sector. We are expecting Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) to give a green signal to our proposal to introduce 4G service very soon. As we can begin 4G by just upgrading the existing technology used for 3G services, it will not take much time to begin the service. We can roll out 4G within two months after NTA’s approval. However, NT will probably face policy hurdles at some point while procuring some machines and this has to be sorted out through a joint effort with concerned government agencies. Currently, NT is running a 4G dedicated project and a fund of Rs 10 million has been separated for it.

How costly will 4G be as compared to the current tariff that NT is charging for 3G service?

We have not yet finalised the tariff for 4G. However, 4G service is bound to be a bit costlier compared to 3G for customers due to enhanced network speed of 4G. However, NT is committed to providing 4G service at the least possible tariff.

A few days back, NT signed an agreement with NTA to lay optical fibre along the Mid-Hill Highway and connecting areas within two years. What is your view on this project?

NT has taken this project as an opportunity to grow. We have a good history of laying optical fibre and completing other projects on time. This was the basis on which NTA signed this agreement with NT. Following the agreement, we are now preparing necessary documents to announce a global tender calling applications from interested contractors. We will complete the tender process within 30-35 days and immediately begin the optical fibre laying process along the Mid-Hill-Highway. However, road conditions in a few places along the highway are not in a good condition and some are yet to be black-topped. This can create some problems while laying the optical fibre. We are confident of completing the project on schedule if we receive cooperation from all concerned bodies.

The Nepal-China cross border optical fibre link will end Nepal’s dependency on India for internet bandwidth. When will this come into operation?

The optical fibre connection with China will start soon. We have completed the process of laying optical fibre to China via Rasuwagadhi. Coordinating with our Chinese counterpart, China Telecom, we will launch the optical fibre link connecting China as soon as possible. This would also end our sole dependency on India for internet bandwidth.

Increasing use of over-the-top services like Viber is said to have affected voice call services of telecommunication operators. What is your take on this?

It is a fact. Customers are more interested talking to people using OTT services instead of direct voice calls. That’s why NT will now aggressively focus on data services from this year. We will make our data services more effective and competitive as OTT services rely on internet.

What is NT’s current share in domestic telecommunication market?

NT stands at number one position in both data and voice service. While we enjoy 55 per cent market share in data services in the country, our stake in voice service is 40 per cent. To maintain this position in the future, my attempts will be to increase NT’s presence in both these services during my tenure.

Do you have any words for your customers?

Our customers are our asset. I assure them that NT will give continuity to ongoing services, launch new services, improve quality in services and develop a habit of taking customer feedback seriously and responding accordingly.