Consumer rights activists have suggested to Nepal Telecom (NT) to concentrate on three aspects—quality, price and service. And to allow NT to do so, they have also urged the government to let it operate as an independent telecom service provider.
With the government holding a majority stake in the company, NT has to go through lengthy paperwork when making any decision which has hampered efficiency and retarded growth. Unions of NT employees too have been demanding a stop to political intervention to allow their organization to maintain its leading position.
“The government has been treating NT as one of its departments with political and bureaucratic interference,” said Jyoti Baniya, general secretary of the Consumers Right Protection Forum, addressing a social dialogue programme on the challenges and priorities of Nepal Telecom in the present context on Friday. He added that it had been vital for NT to start removing political restraints to make the institution quality and service oriented.
NT holds a 58 percent market share in Nepal’s telecom sector. Its closest rivals Ncell and United Telecom hold 36 percent and 5 percent respectively. Recently, the number of telecom subscribers in the country has crossed 10 million.
“Till a couple of years back, there was no competition. Now competition has increased pushing the telecom penetration rate to above 34 percent from 2 percent in the last three years,” said Surendra Prasad Thike, spokesperson of NT. He said that the growth itself had become a challenge for NT underlying the need for a clear and comprehensive strategy to grab the opportunity in a flourishing market or watch helplessly being crippled.
At the programme, Thike also highlight the situation of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), the state-owned telecom service provider in India that faced the first ever loss of IRs 18.82 billion during 2009-10.
The main reason for the loss was competition and a price war among telecom operators in India. According to NT, a monopolistic legacy, inadequate market strategy, poor mechanism for risk management and adherence to government rules and regulations were some of its weaknesses.
“NT has ample resources and infrastructure. However, whenever it comes to making decisions or implementing any project, there are debates hindering institutional growth,” said an official at the Nepal Telecommunications Authority, the regulator of the telecom sector.
“There are lots of chances for NT, but it depends on how it wins the hearts of customers and moves in a competitive market which is expected to be more fierce in the days to come.”