Number of people with internet access in the country has increased significantly in the last five years, thanks to mobile technology that has made internet surfing possible in handsets, thereby also pushing up the demand.
The penetration rate of data service increased to around 33 per cent by mid-June this year.
This means there are 8.68 million data subscribers in the country. In mid-June 2009, the country had 0.17 million data customers with penetration rate at 0.63 per cent, according to the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA). The rapid growth in internet service users is attributed to the rise in number of mobile users who use GPRS service, the commercial launch of 3G data service, and increased competition among data service providers, which has benefitted the consumers.
Even though major telecom service companies had obtained the 3G spectrum before 2007, they came with 3G data service only after 2010 and contributed massively in mobile internet users, making it possible to watch videos online with high speed wireless broadband connection.
Speed of internet has increased from general 64 Kbps five years ago to over 10 Mbps at present, while price has also come down remarkably. “It is natural to see growth in data service as demand for it is increasing globally and this has also kind of become a basic service,” said Ananda Raj Khanal, officiating chief of NTA. He said that with the surge in demand, companies have started introducing separate data packages based on the needs of various customer segments.
For example, Ncell has introduced Facebook pack for its customers, which is relatively cheaper than normal data tariff.
NTA records show that out of the total data customers, more than 8.25 million are users of mobile internet services that include GPRS, EDGE, 3G, EVDO and CDMA 1X. Two major companies, NT and Ncell, which are also the licensees of internet service provider (ISP), had customer base of 4.5 million and four million, respectively, as of mid-June this year.
Amid demand for mobile and high speed data growing, new services like WiMax, EVDO and ‘fibre to the home’ have also been introduced in the last five years. Other ISPs too have been providing data services at competitive prices. However, according to Internet Service Providers Association of Nepal, despite the rise in total number of data users, broadband data connection penetration rate is expected to have reached only 10 per cent in the country.
Until a few years ago, telecom companies used to focus on generating revenue from voice service, but now they have been focusing on data service to attract more customers with cheaper, better and reliable data services. NT has given priority to technologies such as IP-CDMA, 3G, FTTH and 4G services to increase data coverage and income. Ncell is focusing on expansion of 3G service nationwide and planning to launch 4G.
NTA officials said that as voice services are also available through data connection, demand for high speed internet will increase, while voice would be a secondary service in long run.