Nepali internet users getting angrier over bad serviceAccording to the Nepal Telecommunications Authority, the number of complaints in the last fiscal year rose almost fourfold compared to the previous year.
Nepali internet users are getting angrier over bad service, and are letting their service providers know about it, according to a report released by the telecom regulator.
The Nepal Telecommunications Authority's latest annual report shows that 219 irate customers filed complaints about different problems related to internet service in the fiscal year 2020-21 ended mid-July, which is almost four times more than in the previous fiscal when 57 complaints were sent in.
The authority said that since the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, students have been attending online classes and office employees have been working remotely. Consequently, there was a rise in the number of complaints—mostly over slow internet speed and intermittent service interruptions.
The most common complaints were about internet speed fluctuation or slow internet. There were 133 complaints (43.04 percent) against slow internet.
According to the report, 34 complaints (11 percent) were about “internet service not working”, nine complaints (2.91 percent) concerned maintenance problems, eight complaints (2.59 percent) were billing related, nine complaints (2.91 percent) were toll free number related, three complaints had to do with compensation, and 23 complaints concerned various other issues.
According to the report, 82 complaints (26.54 percent) were filed against state-owned Nepal Telecom and 23 complaints (8.41 percent) were filed against private operator Ncell.
Other companies had their share of disgruntled customers—52 complaints (16.83 percent) were received against WorldLink Communications, 35 complaints (11.33 percent) against Vianet Communications, 54 complaints (17.48 percent) against Classic Tech and 28 complaints (9.06 percent) were received against Subisu Cable Net.
Purushottam Khanal, chairman of the Nepal Telecommunications Authority, said that with the rise in the number of service users, the volume of complaints had swelled accordingly.
Nepal has enjoyed incredible success in digital adoption compared to its neighbours with internet service reaching 100 percent of the population. “The growth in internet penetration has not matched the growth in internet infrastructure,” he said.
“Due to Nepal’s harsh geographical condition, the telecommunications infrastructure is not intact. This leads to problems in internet services.”
As per Internet Service Provider Bylaws 2020, customers should complain to the service providers first whenever they face a problem, but they are complaining directly to the telecom watchdog.
“The trend shows that more and more consumers are becoming vocal against the poor services which they pay for,” said Khanal. “We direct the service providers to address the consumers' grievances once we receive them,” said Khanal.
The bylaws clearly state that an internet service provider should resolve problems within 24 hours after the complaint is filed; and if it does not do so, no charge should be collected for the period when the service is interrupted.
"But consumers do not know what to do in case their complaints are not addressed," said Khanal.
Sudhir Parajuli, president of the Internet Service Providers’ Association Nepal, said that internet companies sell packages for household purposes in sharing ratio which makes them cheaper, and this is stated clearly in the contract.
“But customers complain about service problems without looking at it. The speed of shared internet packages become slow during peak time with many devices being connected at the same time,” Parajuli said.
"We do not intend to provide slow service because we want to retain our customers as there is stiff competition in the market. We always address the problem as soon as it comes to us," he said.
"Sometimes, the internet connection is shared beyond its capacity, due to which problems occur," he said. "The number of service users is growing daily, and there is a problem in the shared infrastructure that service providers use which creates problems," he added.
Nepal's broadband internet service density, which was 52.06 percent in the fiscal year 2014-15, has reached 102.82 percent in 2020-21.
In the last fiscal year, 3G service reached 12.89 million people covering 42.7 percent of the population while 4G service reached 9.95 million people covering 32.9 percent of the population.
The authority targets having broadband internet in all community campuses and community schools in the fiscal year 2021-22, as per the report.
As of the last fiscal year, the total number of broadband subscribers in the country totalled 30.99 million, out of which 22.98 million were mobile broadband subscribers and 7.79 million were fixed broadband subscribers.
Mobile broadband accounts for 74 percent of the market share of broadband service while fixed (wired) makes up 25 percent and fixed (wireless) makes up 1 percent.
The country started 3G service in 2007 and 4G service 10 years later in 2017.
Nepal has been planning to introduce 5G service soon.
The authority says that the scale of the problem in internet services has been magnified, but service providers have often been pointing to poor infrastructure for slow internet problems.
However, the problem remains as it is, say consumer rights activists.
According to Ookla, a US-based firm that analyses internet connection speeds, Nepal ranked in the 110th position among 138 countries with 22.39 Mbps download speed and 12.76 Mbps upload speed in mobile broadband service in September.
The country was in the 118th position with 17.12 Mbps download speed and 10.61 Mbps upload speed during the same period last year.
In fixed broadband service, Nepal ranked 108th in the global speed test with 33.87 Mbps download speed and 29.63 Mbps upload speed in September.
During the same period last year, Nepal placed 113th with 22.36 Mbps download speed and 20.41 Mbps upload speed, as per the report.