India to provide Third Internet Gateway at less than USD 5

During the 2-day visit of the India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar to Bhutan on 29 April, it was verbally conveyed to Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji the Government of India (GoI) has agreed to provide Bhutan with the Third Internet Gateway at the tariff asked by Bhutan.

Lyonpo Tandi Dorji said that the decision is expected to be communicated by GoI through proper means. 

“I am pleased to inform that, as everyone is aware, Bangladesh has provided us with a very good friendship rate of USD 3 per mbps. It was more than USD 10 per mbps to begin with, and we kept requesting and expecting the Indian side to give us USD 1 to 1.5 per mbps because we assumed that all of the other expenses were related to the lines, power line, and all of these were already established. They didn’t agree since it wasn’t possible and, as they often claim, in their own state it wasn’t that low. We continued to negotiate, and we are pleased to say that External Affairs Minister Dr Jaishankar has stated that they will support and provide the rate that we have requested,” Lyonpo said.

Bangladesh announced a friendship rate of USD 3 per mbps. Bhutan’s request is to get the Third Gateway via the existing link from Bangladesh to Agartala and then take a line to Gelephu, which has been pending for three elected governments’ terms, with the main barrier being the high costs being asked by various parties to transport the internet through the narrow Indian stretch.

For now, the government is awaiting formal communication, however, it was announced verbally during the bilateral meeting that the rate requested by Bhutan will be granted. It is just formal communication that is required said Lyonpo.

Bhutan was largely without internet on 21 and 22 May 2020 when Cyclone Amphan impacted both Bhutan Telecom and TashiCell’s internet lines coming via Kolkata.

Lyonpo highlighted since everyone is aware that the line ran from Siliguri corridor, and that when the cyclone hit the region, our internet was interrupted for two days.

“So even if the one side is gone, we will have the other side and also.  It will benefit our eastern part of the country, and we will be able to reach locations that we have previously been unable to access,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo added, “We will publicly announce the actual rate after they communicate with us. They have agreed to provide less than USD 5. We are currently paying close to USD 7 per mbps, so the new rate that we are receiving is significantly lower, and with the increased use of IT in Bhutan, I believe our need will rise over time. For us to obtain that rate is historical. The impact of this will be felt by everyone in a few years.”

Lyonpo stressed that it is a significant achievement, and India has been very kind in its support, for which the government is thankful to India’s External Affairs Minister as well as the Indian Embassy in Bhutan.

“The Indian Embassy has been quite supportive.” “Starting with the Bangladesh friendship rate, which is even lower than what they are offering to their own people in Bangladesh. We are really thankful,” Lyonpo said.

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