Last week, on Friday evening, Tashi Cell internet users across the country were left without internet for close to five hours. A malware is the supposed cause, though one worries about a national internet service that can be shut down by a malware attack.
Bhutan Telecom is no better and in fact there are equal or even more complaints about Bhutan’s first telecom company.
Forget about rural areas, there are still quite a few parts of urban Thimphu where the internet connection is so poor that it is equivalent to not having one.
There are also well known and documented issues about call drops, poor quality mobile connections, unexplained deductions and generally poor quality service from both the companies.
While the entry of a private player has led to reduction in prices and more competition, however, the next worse thing is a duopoly where two major players get away with equally poor quality services using the repetitive, ‘market is too small for a third player’ argument.
The government, as a result, retreated from its initial threat of allowing a third player to a position of not even holding the two Telco’s to proper account.
It is not enough that the government and the two Telco’s are simply happy with coverage, as it would mean very little if there is no quality of coverage.
A survey by the Bhutan Transparency Initiative shows that the biggest bottleneck to G2C services in rural areas is the poor speed of the internet.
The solutions here are very simple. One is to measure and fine poor performance which may ultimately lead to the license being cancelled and re-tendered or to explore the option of a third operator.
What we cannot afford to do is to allow the current level of poor service to be accepted as the norm, otherwise the long term costs for Bhutan’s economy and services will be high.
“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of an intelligent effort.”