PAC raises concern about Ncell’s 4G licence

May 10, 2017

The Himalayan Times, 10th May 2017, Kathmandu

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has expressed its serious concerns over the government’s move to issue 4G (fourth generation) licence to Ncell.

Talking to The Himalayan Times, PAC Chairman Dor Prasad Upadhyaya said that the decision to allow Ncell to roll out 4G service is a violation of the direction of PAC.

Moreover, Upadhyaya said that PAC will seek detailed clarification on the matter from the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) and Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) — the telecommunication sector regulator of Nepal.

“Immediately after we came to know that NTA had permitted Ncell to roll out 4G service, we had sought clarification from MoIC on the decision of NTA. However, PAC is not satisfied with the response furnished by MoIC,” Upadhyaya said, adding that PAC will seek detailed clarification from both MoIC and NTA after the local-level elections.

In its response to PAC, MoIC had defended the decision of NTA citing that Ncell has not been given any additional
frequency for 4G but has only been allowed to use its existing frequency to upgrade to new services.

“There is no point in allowing the company to introduce new services when it is dilly-dallying in clearing the applicable taxes to the government,” Upadhyaya added.

PAC lawmakers have been demanding that the government bar Ncell from launching any new service, including 4G, until the company pays the applicable capital gains tax (CGT) that the company owes to the government in the TeliaSonera-Axiata deal of Ncell last year.

However, despite restriction from lawmakers, NTA last week had allowed Ncell to launch 4G service from June 1 under the technology neutral spectrum. Under this spectrum, telecom companies can add any new technology (services) in the existing frequency bands of the company leaving it up to operators to choose the technology they want in their frequency brand. The NTA direction now allows Ncell to add 4G service in its fleet through the company’s 900MHz and 1800MHz frequency brand.

As per NTA, the decision to allow Ncell to launch 4G service is part of NTA’s broader objective to expand broadband service nationwide by 2020 by increasing access to internet. Similarly, NTA has also claimed that Ncell will be obliged to pay higher taxes to the government after the company launches 4G service from its existing frequency band.

Meanwhile, Ncell is yet to announce its 4G plan. The company had submitted its 4G rollout plan to NTA on
November 4.

Back then, the company had said it would launch the 4G service for customers simultaneously from Kathmandu, Pokhara and Damauli in the first phase.