The Kathmandu Post, 13 Jan 2018
Nepal has joined hands with China to offer internet services to its citizens, officials said on Friday, ending India’s decades-long monopoly of the Himalayan nation’s cyber connectivity network.
For years, Nepal depended on Indian telecom companies, such as Bharti Airtel and Tata Communications Ltd, for access to the worldwide web, which Nepali officials said made connections vulnerable to network failures.
Nepal Telecom and China Telecom Global launched their services after they wrapped up the laying of optical fiber cables between Kerung in China and Rasuwagadi in Nepal, about 50 km (30 miles) north of Kathmandu, the companies said. The optical cables from China are connected to the optical fibre hub of Nepal Telecom at Sundhara, Kathmandu. From Sundhara, the state owned telecom service provider of Nepal will provide internet service to its customers all over the country.
“This will give us an alternative to India for cyber connectivity and ensure uninterrupted connections,” Pratibha Vaidya, a Nepal Telecom spokeswoman, told Reuters. “Consumers can now look forward to a reliable service.”
Currently, the speed of Chinese fiber link via Rasuwagadhi border will be 1.5 Gb per second which according to Nepal Telecom will be increased in near future with the mutual understanding between both parties.
Minister for Information and Communications Mohan Bahadur Basnet inaugurated the launch of the optical fiber link. He said that the Nepal-China optical fiber link was a major milestone for development of internet infrastructure in Nepal.
Chinese ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong who was also present at the inauguration ceremony said that the terrestrial cable will not only shorten the network latency, but also bring the two countries more closer to each other. More than 60 percent of Nepal’s 28 million people had access to the internet last year, up from just 19 percent in 2012.
Both Asian giants China and India have been jostling to increase their influence in Nepal, a natural buffer separating them, by ramping up their investments in road and hydropower projects in the impoverished country.
In 2016, Beijing agreed to allow Nepal to use its ports to trade goods with third countries, ending the latter’s sole dependence on India for overland trade.
Nepal last year joined the Belt and Road Initiative, which is China’s effort to develop a modern “Silk Road” connecting Asia with Europe, Middle East and Africa by road, railway, sea and air.
As part of the initiative, Nepali officials say they are in talks with Beijing over the extension of the Chinese railway network into Nepal from Tibet.