Despite ongoing works to light up the Gelephu international gateway, the country’s second internet gateway which was supposed to be lit last year has still not been operationalised. Bhutan Telecom Limited (BTL) confirmed that the prolonged rental negotiations with Bharti Airtel in India were finalized by the end of last year and the delay now is purely owing to technical issues. However, discussions on technical feasibility are still underway with Reliance and Tata after which rental negotiations will follow.
“BTL has already interconnected physical circuits with Airtel. We are in discussions with Tata and Reliance on interconnecting with them as well at Gelephu,” said BTL’s Druknet General Manager, Tshering Norbu. He remained tightlipped on the rental rates referring to a non-disclosure agreement.
BTL will be starting with the international bandwidth of 310 Mbps through Gelephu and harbors plans of upgrading it in future depending on customer demand and ‘traffic’ growth.
One of the partners, Airtel has been encountering unexpected problems some of which are beyond the company’s control therefore assistance from other parties have to be sought.
There isn’t a time frame given as to when the issue would be resolved or the gateway could be ‘lit’. “Due to some factors beyond our and our partner’s control, we are not in a position to give a definite time frame. However, it could be any day or one of these days,”said Tshering Norbu.
A BTL official cited equipment failure and incompatibility issues between its Indian partners as reasons for the delay. According to him, Bharti Airtel has leased fiber from Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL). Along the route, from Siliguri to Bongaigaon (next to Gelephu), the company is mixing and matching equipments of both companies. The authorities have been facing incompatibility issues while some equipment which were not in ready stock are not working. Thus, trying to arrange equipments from their nearest warehouses and bringing in expert engineers to the locations are the priorities right now. “All these constraints have affected the lighting of circuit.”
The second gateway was supposed to have been lit in time for the Thimphu Tech Park Private Limited (TTPL) opening, last year but Tshering Norbu said, the insignificant number of companies looking to invest in the tech park cannot be attributed solely to the setback of the second gateway. He said, “because of the redundancy in international links we have through Phuentsholing, we were ready to offer a very good reliability on the network”. However, he added that if the companies were looking for multiple international gateways at different locations within the country as one of the criteria to rent space at the IT Park, the delay could have hampered the interest of the companies.
Chief Operating Officer of TTPL, Tshering Cigay Dorji, said, “though not immediately, the lighting of the 2nd gateway will definitely improve the position of TTPL in attracting more international companies and also enhance BSP (Business Selling Point)”. He said, connectivity in terms of internet and reliability of the same is the biggest problem TTPL is encountering. With the second gateway in place, internet connectivity can be maintained even if one gateway fails, which will enhance reliability. “It’s good for the whole nation and not just for the IT park,” he added.
BTL has already initiated discussions with Indian operators for feasibility of a third international gateway. Tshering Norbu said, “In the next three years Pasakha could potentially be the third International gateway”.