Govt in talks with ADB to launch VoBS

 The government is once again mulling over introducing controversial voice over broadband service here despite objection from major telecom companies.

The Himalayan Times has learnt that the Ministry of Information and Communications is holding talks with the Asian Development Bank, which is funding the project, in this regard.

Earlier, the ADB had agreed to extend support of $ 6 million to roll out VoBS here under the ICT Development Project. But the plan failed to materialise due to objection raised by Nepal Telecom, Ncell and their employees’ unions.

The companies had stood against the government’s plan to introduce the service, claiming it would cause their income from local and international calls to shrink.

“ADB and top MoIC officials are holding informal discussions to introduce VoBS here,” said an MoIC official on condition of anonymity. The official said Minister for Information and Communications Minendra Rijal was also positive about introducing VoBS.

However, MoIC Secretary Suman Prasad Sharma said he was new in the ministry and was unaware of the plan. “As far as I know no serious discussion has been held on the matter so far. But if a proposal is tabled, we will see how to proceed,” said Sharma, who is also the chairman of NT.

Three years ago, the Cabinet had endorsed a decision to roll out VoBS here. However, the MoIC could not publish a notice on it in the Nepal Gazette due to objections raised by telecom companies. Publication of the notice in the Gazette is essential to formally introduce the service. This will also pave the way for the Nepal Telecommunications Authority, the telecom regulatory body, to initiate bidding process to select competitive companies that can roll out the service here.

The source said some internet service providers, such as World Link Communications, have shown interest to start VoBS here.

The NTA in 2010 had recommended that the government allow companies to roll out VoBS after obtaining a one-time licence fee of Rs 65.3 million.

“But the pre-condition we had placed at that time was that such ISPs should have expanded internet service with a speed of at least 256 kbps in 1,800 village development committees,” said Purushottam Khanal, director of the NTA.

What’s voice over broadband service

VoBS is a service that allows customers to make calls using the internet and route it to ordinary fixed phones or mobile phones. This generally means internet service providers here can start offering voice service using the internet once VoBS is introduced. In the context of Nepal, the service is mainly targeted at enabling rural people to make or receive national and international calls using the internet at cheaper rates. — HNS

Source: THT