Nepal Telecom to begin first 5G trials from JunePrivate operator Ncell has also been eying 5G trial but there is no response on its proposal from the regulator, insiders say.
Nepal Telecom is all set to begin the country's first 5G technology trials from June.
The telecom officials say if things go as planned, the much-awaited 5G technology will be rolled out for commercial purposes by the end of this fiscal year, ending mid-July 2022.
Initially, Nepal Telecom had targeted to begin trials from mid-July 2021, but the changes in the government delayed the plan, officials say.
Nepal currently has 4G networks established in January 2017.
The fifth-generation or 5G technology standard for cellular broadband networks offers faster connections, higher throughput and more capacity than 4G, and will benefit areas of high traffic such as public places.
On February 1, last year, telecom regulator Nepal Telecommunications Authority submitted a proposal to the National Frequency Determining Committee to allow 5G operation in the country.
According to the authority, 5G bands can be used on existing ones. As per the technology-neutral principle policy, the operator can use 3G, 4G or 5G on the same band by obtaining permission from the authority.
The authority will provide spectrum to telecom operators without cost to carry out 5G trials, and they cannot charge users during the test period either. The test will last one year.
Nepal Telecom said it had received the spectrum allotment and trial permission from its regulator on November 22.
It started working on the 5G trial preparation by forming a task force in mid-December.
“If things go as planned, we will begin the trial in multiple locations within the next six months,” Minu Pradhan, director of Wireless Service Directorate at Nepal Telecom, told the Post.
The vendors have submitted detailed proposals, which includes bills of material and quantity, design, and technical parameters required for the trial, Pradhan said. “The task force will study it and will finalise the proposal,” she said.
“We have targeted to finalise the proposal by next week. After the proposal is finalised, we will start importing equipment for trial.”
Officials, however, said that with the emerging problems in global shipping lines due to the new variant Omicron, the project might be delayed.
“As of now, everything is going smoothly. But we fear Omicron may impact the plan,” Pradhan said. “The vendors are saying it may take around three months for the goods to arrive if there is no obstruction.”
The telecom regulator has allocated a 2600 MHz frequency band to Nepal Telecom for the trial.
Private operator Ncell has also been eying 5G trials but there is no response on its proposal from the regulator, insiders say.
In September last year, Ncell had written to the regulator seeking approval for 5G network trials. The regulator had informed the company that the Radio Frequency Policy Determination Committee would review Ncell’s 5G plan. But, there has been no response so far, sources privy to the matter said.
As per the Trial Working Procedure, the 5G tests need to be conducted in both rural and urban areas. The telecom operator cannot charge customers during the trial period, and it will not have to pay any frequency charge.
On different occasions, lawmakers at the parliamentary Development and Technology Committee have raised concerns over the services offered by Nepal Telecom.
The parliamentary committee has directed the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology and Nepal Telecom to submit a clear working procedure within 30 days including the 5G plan.
In the previous fiscal year, Nepal Telecom had said it had submitted the working procedure to the committee under which it will expand its 4G networks at all local levels. But 43 local levels still do not have access to the 4G network.
Though the number of customers of Nepal Telecom has been increasing immensely, the quality of service and construction of infrastructure is lacking, said the committee.
According to a management information system (MIS) report of Nepal Telecommunications Authority, Nepal Telecom had 22.52 million voice telephones service users till mid-November 2021, up from 20.63 million in the same time period in 2020.
Nepal Telecom had 10.16 million 3G users till November 2021 which was 8.43 million in the same period in 2020. It had 7.48 million 4G users till mid-November 2021 which was 2 million in mid-November 2020.