ISPs feel the heat from petroleum shortagesSevere fuel shortage has started hitting the telecommunications sector. Particularly, Internet services will be affected the most if the situation prolongs.
Severe fuel shortage has started hitting the telecommunications sector. Particularly, Internet services will be affected the most if the situation prolongs.
Internet service providers (ISPs) depend on diesel generators to keep their services running during the power outages and ISPs across the country have been reeling under acute fuel shortage, according to the Internet Service Providers Association of Nepal (ISPAN). There are around 39 registered ISPs across the country providing Internet services to around 129,830 clients.
The number of clients may not seem big, but they include important institutions like banks, airlines, media outlets, hospitals, education institutions and hotels. A service disruption might take a big toll on the functioning of these institutions.
“So far, there have been no reports of ISPs putting their services off. However, if the situation persists, they will have no option but to halt the services,” said ISPAN President Suman Lal Pradhan. “Almost all the ISPs have fuel stock that would last for a couple of days.”
An ISPAN delegation visited the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) earlier this week to inform the regulatory body about the situation.
Although the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), at the NTA’s request, provided petroleum products to the ISPs, the quantity is too small for these companies to operate, Pradhan said.
There might be an argument that the ISP could offer the services only during the peak hours while switching off in late nights when the number of users is low, but it is impossible, Pradhan said.
“It takes around three-four hours for our server to restart and around an hour to shut down. So we cannot switch it off or on when needed,” he said, adding they either need continuous power supply or a dedicated feeder to continue the services.
Most of the ISPs have stopped making new connections after the fuel crisis started. They have not even been able to reach the sites for maintenance.
As far as the telecom companies are concerned, the impact of the petroleum shortage has not become that worse. Ncell has been provided a dedicated feeder. “We are thankful to the NEA (Nepal Electricity Authority) for assuring power supply to data centers,” said Milan Mani Sharma, corporate communications expert at Ncell.
“But similar supply of fuel for generators to power up BTS (Base Transceiver Station) during power outage will be important to enable communications throughout. We have communicated this to the concerned authorities and hope for their support in making situation normal so that it will not create difficulties to the people to communicate with each other,” Sharma said.
Nepal Telecom (NT) Managing Director Buddhi Prasad Acharya said most of their towers have solar power backups. “However, for exchange centres, we need diesel to keep our generators functioning,” he said.
NT also has dedicated feeders to some of its exchange centres. It has around 100 exchange centres across the country.
NTC Spokesperson Achyuta Nanda Mishra said they have taken the issue seriously. “We have receiving concerns and some of them have been addressed too,” Mishra said. “Since telecommunication is categorised under emergency services, we are making every effort to keep it running.”