Telecom regulator of Nepal to hire consultancy for broadband scheme

24 January 2018 Authored by Consultancy.asia

To monitor the progress of broadband roll-out across rural areas in Nepal, Nepal Telecommunications Authority has decided to bring in external expertise. A tender process was launched last month to find the most capable management consulting firm.

Across Nepal, only 20% of the population frequently uses the internet, with usage high in the high-populated areas such as cities, and access low in rural areas – about 80% of Nepal's population live in such remote areas and depend on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. In a bid to improve telecom and internet connectivity in rural areas, Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) launched the Rural Telecommunications Development Fund (RTDF). 

NTA is Nepal’s government-owned body responsible for regulating all matters related to telecommunications, including wireless, cellular, satellite and cable. Its RTDF fund aims at building awareness among the Nepalese about the social and economic benefits of internet connectivity, as well as increasing their access to the internet through hubs and an improved broadband infrastructure. 

RTDF’s master plan consists of 18 broadband internet projects across Nepal’s rural regions, with projects and funding awarded to internet service providers (ISPs) for execution. ISPs have been tasked with expanding broadband internet services in the public domain, which include government offices, village level administrative units, schools, hospitals and public places. In addition, RTDF has started work on another project which will support the roll-out of an optical fibre network along the Mid-hill Highway – Nepal’s new highway that will connect the country’s East (Phidim and Basantapur) with the West (Patan, Sanfebagar). The 1,776 kilometer road network is planned for completion in 2022.

Telecom regulator of Nepal hires consultancy for broadband scheme

Monitoring of Rs 16 billion scheme

To date, the fund has allocated more than Rs 16 billion in capital to ISPs who have won bids to render broadband internet services in their respective regions. A special governance board has been established by the NTA to monitor the progress of roll-out and budget expenditure, with ISPs that are undertaking RTDF-funded projects obliged to submit progress reports to the NTA on a regular basis.

“As NTA lacks enough manpower and expertise to monitor and evaluate project progress, we decided to hire a consulting firm for this purpose. The hired consultant will basically render professional services for evaluation, monitoring and certification of RTDF-funded broadband projects initiated by NTA,” said Min Prasad Aryal, spokesperson for NTA.

The consulting firm will also support with developing a method to monitor and evaluate the implementation phase, including the design of a framework, setting KPIs and erecting a governance process for communications and non-compliance. The consultancy will further provide portfolio management services, aggregating ISPs' progress reports into overall status reports for NTA’s leaders. 

The search for a consultancy kicked off in Q4 of last year with the release of an expression of interest (EoI) – unknown is how many and which consulting firms have signed up to the tender. A select number of major international consultancies have an on the ground base in Nepal, including PwC, yet if interested, large rivals such as the American strategy consultants or Deloitte, EY and Accenture would have to pitch from their hubs in the area, including India and China.

The RTDF forms one part of NTA’s strategy to boost internet connectivity in Nepal. At the heart of its strategy is a target to ensure that by 2022, 60% of Nepal’s population will have access to the internet, of which 80% will be realised through smartphone penetration.

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