With reference to a recent warning to the two telecom operators by the Prime Minister that a third player would be introduced if services don’t improve, the Member of Parliament of Nubi Tangsibji, Nidup Zangpo, raised a question on whether the government has considered the limited business scope for a third service provider.
In response to the question raised during the Question Hour session of the National Assembly, Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said, “We have not yet decided, but just warned the operators that we may be may be compelled to consider opening the market to a third operator.”
Lyonchhen said that the government cannot direct and interfere with the work done by the companies, but the best option, as per the policy, is to consider opening the market to a third operator.
He pointed out “The Bhutan Telecom and Tashi Cell are working extensively in improving the service, however if the service is below potential and service demand by the customer, we must find a way to solve the issue.”
In relation to that, Lyonchhen said that around 98 percent of the country has mobile coverage, even in most remote part of the country, which he said is playing a vital role in the life of the people across the country.
Lyonchhen said that mobile and internet service play a vital role in providing a government-to-citizen service, for the growth of business, and plays a main role in good governance.
However, Lyonchhen pointed out the call drop issue, which emerged recently on an increasing scale and degrading speed of the internet, has become a concern for the people.
“After learning the degrading quality of service from both the operators, the experts have come up with a report suggesting that it might be a good solution to come up with the new service operator,” Prime Minister said.
However, the government is open to giving an opportunity to the existing operators to improve as they have the resources to do so. “Both the telecom companies are making huge amounts of profit,” Lyonchhen said, adding that good quality mobile and internet service has become a basic need, with the change of time and with increasing socio-economic development.
“If such service are lacking, the foreign investment would be an issue, which will hugely hamper the business development,” he said, adding that while discussing with the foreign investors, their main concern was with the poor mobile and internet services.
MP of Khar Yurung, Zangley Drukpa, questioned the effectiveness of Bhutan Telecom management, as it is a state-owned company.
In response, Lyonchhen said that it has been 18 month since the quality of service has been an issue, during which time, Lyonchhen made a personal visit to Bhutan Telecom to meet with the concerned officials and heads to discuss the issue.
A second meeting was also conducted in Phuentsholing during the establishment of a data center, and a third meeting was conducted in Changlimithang, Thimphu.
Lyonchhen said that the reason for the degrading service has to do with the software issue and scaled up number of users, which is more than the estimated capacity of the software.
He said, “Deploying the software and necessary equipment was also discussed during the discussion, to which they said that even after deploying new machines and software, the improvement in service are not seen.”
“After these meetings, the service has improved drastically since the past 18 months but not 100 percent,” he pointed out.
Prime Minister said that during the recent visit of King and Queen of Sweden, Ericsson Company was also part of the royal delegation. The company representative made a visit to Bhutan Telecom, during which a fourth meeting was held.
Lyonchhen added, “It was said that all the machines in Telecom are from the Ericsson, and since the 100 percent service improvement was not achieved, Ericsson and Telecom are now going to work together in solving the issue.”