The government is preparing to renew the GSM mobile license of Nepal Telecom (NT) without taking a renewal fee for the time being. NT’s licence is expiring on May 11.
Sources at Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC) said the government will first renew NT’s licence and then charge the renewal fee after carrying out a study on the amount to be charged.
“The licence will be renewed for now and the renewal fee will be charged based on the findings of the study,” said the ministry source. The ministry has already directed the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) to this effect, sending a letter on Thursday.
For the second time, a committee led by MoIC Secretary has been formed to study the licence renewal fee. The process of collecting the renewal fee will begin only after the recommendation of the committee.
As per the existing provision, Nepal Telecom will have to pay Rs 20 billion for its licence renewal. Two years ago, the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had directed the government to collect the fee for the first renewal, and decide the fee for subsequent renewals based on international practices. However, a study initiated after the PAC’s direction never completed.
This is the second time NT is renewing its GSM mobile licence, which will allow it to provide the service until May 2019. After the regulatory authority failed to fix the renewal fee, NT in the second week of February had applied for the licence renewal paying Rs 189 million. The issue of the second licence renewal fee holds huge importance as it will also be applicable to other telecom companies—Ncell and Smart Telecom. After five years, when Ncell’s licence comes up for renewal, it will have to pay whatever the government charges NT this year. Also, Smart Telecom, which acquired the unified telecom licence last year, will have to pay the same amount after 14 years. After obtaining a licence for the first time, telecom service providers are allowed to operate for 10 years. After that, they have to get their licences renewed every five years.
An NTA board meeting on Thursday convened after a gap of one and half months didn’t take any decision on NT’s licence issue. NTA officials said they have received the ministry’s letter. “We have received a letter from the ministry about the renewal,” said Kailash Prasad Neupane, spokesperson for NTA.