Meanwhile, the government is still waiting for official correspondence on the rates from GoI
Bhutan is in the process of creating a digital ecosystem for governance, and for the citizens to reach their full potential with equitable access to services for all through the use of Information Communication and Technology (ICT), given that majority of the population are growing more and more dependent on the Internet for work, entertainment and life in general.
Access to reliable and affordable internet has become even more important with the pandemic. To harness the power of ICT to transform Bhutan into a smart and inclusive society, the issue of redundancy, reliability, security and price is central and critical to achieving this goal.
According to the Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT), Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC), the primary goal of improving the reliability of international connectivity will be achieved with the implementation of Third Internet Gateway.
The Third Internet Gateway may also help in reducing the wholesale rates levied to the small ISPs by the two telecom operators, and therefore, the cost of leased Internet line may reduce in the country over time.
According to DITT, Bhutan’s existing International Internet Gateway link via Phuentsholing and Gelephu, all going through the Siliguri corridor in India, poses a risk to both the primary and secondary connections for Bhutan being affected by a single incident at Siliguri since these fiber cables connect Bhutan further to the rest of the world.
In May 2020, the Amphan Cyclone affected Power Grid Corporation of India Limited’s optical groundwire link in Kolkata which further disrupted both Bhutan Telecom and Tashi InfoComm’s networks in the country resulting in Internet blackout for almost two days in Bhutan. The effect of the Amphan Cyclone has made it important for the country to emphasize on implementing the Third Internet Gateway.
The proposed link for the third internet gateway link is through Gelephu-Agartala-Comilla-Kuakata-Singapore link, which shall serve as the alternative gateway for Bhutan.
Meanwhile, the government is still waiting for official correspondence on the rates from Government of India (GoI). BSNL from India is expected to give the connection.
According to the Information and Communication Minister Karma Donnen Wangdi, the government is awaiting for the exact rate to be announced by GoI.
Lyonpo said, “The meeting with India’s External Affairs Minister went smoothly. We are already aware that GoI is going to provide the Third Internet Gateway at less than USD 5 per mbps to the country. Thus, we are awaiting the actual rate for the Third Internet Gateway, which is expected to be announced soon. We are following up.”
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.
Bangladesh set the ball in motion when it announced a special Friendship Rate for Bhutan which combined with the low Indian rate makes it affordable for Bhutan.