Prahalad Rijal, The Kathmandu Post, July 2010, 2019
Out of the 63 percent of Nepali connected to the internet, nearly 50 percent do so via their mobile phones as telecom service providers continue to expand their 3G and 4G coverage.
The number of mobile internet users has swelled to 14.65 million in April, 2019 from 11.17 million in 2018, an 11 percent jump year-on-year. It translates to around 400 new mobile broadband subscribers every hour.
This means that nearly four million new users overcame the digital divide in 2018-19, according to the Management Information System (MIS) report released by the telecommunications authority on Tuesday.
According to telecom authority Spokesperson Min Prasad Aryal, the surge in mobile broadband users can be attributed to the expansion of 3G and 4G coverage by telecom service providers.
“Users in sub-urban and rural areas have contributed to the exponential growth of mobile connectivity as they are increasingly opting to use mobile data over voice services and have gained access to social media easily,” said Aryal.
As per the Digital Nepal Framework launched by the government in 2018, 4G services rollout will continue to remain a priority for telecom operators with 60 percent of Nepal’s cities getting 4G services in next 2-3 years and they are pouring the resources to meet the growing demand for data services.
“Expanding mobile broadband infrastructure in areas with difficult geographical terrain is feasible while implementing fixed and fibre connectivity poses insurmountable challenges,” Aryal explained.
However, at the current expansion rate of Internet services, the government’s target to build a ‘digital society’ connecting 90 percent of the population to the internet by 2020 remains a far cry from completion.
The latest report shows that broadband connectivity, both fixed and mobile has reached 63.31 percent in 2019 from 48.91 percent in 2018, falling short by 26.69 percent with only a few months remaining to 2020.
The figures also highlight that mobile internet is yet to be realised by a large population despite the telecom authority’s data which suggests that 95.2 percent of the population live within range of a mobile tower.
At the macroeconomic level, voracious appetite for data is instrumental in growing the economy’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as efficient and quick transfer of data is directly linked with increase in productivity.
According to the World Development Report 2016, a 10 percent increase in fixed broadband penetration increases GDP growth by 1.38 percent in developing economies.
However, Nepal is yet to realise substantial growth in fixed broadband—ADSL, cable and fibre—connectivity, particularly fibre optic technology which ensures high-speed connections.
As per the MIS report, only 12.71 percent of total subscribers are connected through fixed lines as of date with only half a million Nepali subscribing to fibre optic connections sold by 39 internet service providers.