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Optical Fiber backbone project: Fibers laid around 1,600 kilometers



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By Samundra Ghimire, Kathmandu, Aug 3: Optical Fiber has been installed along 1,600 kilometres length so far under the Optical Fiber Backbone Network Expansion Project across the country.    

Nepal Telecom Authority (NTA) had initiated the project with a goal of expanding the Optical Fiber network within two years, but only 46.16 per cent of work has been completed till July 15.    

The Nepal Telecom, which had got the responsibility of laying Optical Fiber in province 1, 2 and Bagmati Province under the first phase, has completed installing the Optical Fiber in these areas.    

As per the agreement, the NT has to install Optical Fiber along 2,083 kilometres in three provinces. Of them, it has laid Fiber along 1,006 kilometres in five years.

The NTA had given the responsibility to install Fiber at 6,235 kilometres of the mid-hill highway to three separate companies dividing the project into three sections.    

Out of three sections, Fiber laying work has been started, the work has not started yet. The NTA had signed an agreement with Nepal Telecom on September 28, 2012, in order to lay Fiber from eastern Nepal to Gorkha within two years under the first section.    

NTA Spokesperson Santosh Poudel said that the Nepal Telecom had started laying optical Fiber from mid-May 2019.    

He shared the Nepal Telecom has given the responsibility to five companies to lay optical fiber and purchase goods for the same in three provinces under the first section.    

 

Works on two sections stalled    

Works have not begun in two sections of the information superhighway expansion project divided into three sections. The installation of optical fibre has not begun in the 2,160 kilometres in 21 districts of Gandaki and Lumbini provinces under Section-2.    

Although NTA has given the responsibility to the United Telecom (UTL) for the expansion, the expansion works are halted as a case has been filed against it in the Supreme Court. The NTA had signed a contract worth Rs 2.01 billion with UTL on May 8, 2017.    

NTA annulled the contract with UTL on May 9, 2019, citing the latter failed to start works on the project within the specified period. After this, UTL moved to the Supreme Court.    

Under the project, Optical Fiber of 98 core would be installed along the Mid-Hill highway, of 48 core would be laid down along the roads linking the district headquarters and the Mid-Hill highway with the East-West highway while optical fibre of 24 core would be installed alongside the roads connecting the municipalities.    

NTA is refusing to continue the project with Smart Telecom as the firm has not been able to make tangible progress in the project works despite repeated directions from the authority.    

Though NTA is in the mood to award the optical fibre laying project across the Karnali Province and Sudurpaschim province to a new company, it is still undecided on when to open the new tender.    

Though Smart Telecom was supposed to lay the optical fibre cables along almost 2,500 kilometres in different parts of the two aforementioned provinces, it has so far laid only 20 kilometres of optical fibre, as per NTA. In the case of UTL, which was supposed to lay optical fibre across almost 2,000 kilometres in Gandaki Province and Lumbini Province, it has not even started the project work. As UTL failed to comply with the project agreement, NTA had scrapped the project contract with UTL.    

However, NTA is yet to appoint a new developer of the project in these two provinces. Similarly, Nepal Telecom, which is supposed to lay optical fibre across Provinces 1, 2 and Bagmati Province has just started the project citing different procedural hurdles.

As none of these firms has been able to give proper shape to the optical fibre project, the project worth billions of rupees faces uncertainty at the moment. NTA is funding these projects through the Rural Telecommunications Development Fund.    

Meanwhile, Min Prasad Aryal, spokesperson for NTA, said that the authority will soon take necessary decisions regarding the project in consultation with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.     

The project envisages connecting 32 districts in Provinces 1, 2 and Bagmati with high-speed optical fibre to allow fast data transfers and voice and video calls, according to the state-owned telecom giant.