A third operator?

Many of us may have cursed out of frustration at not being able to finish a conversation or at the amount of time wasted waiting for data to download onto a phone.

And these situations occur during normal times. During a disaster, an already bad situation would only be worse.

So it comes as a relief that the government is concerned as well.

The government recently announced that it may consider opening the market to a third telecom operator if their services do not improve by September this year.

In response, the two telecom companies have pointed out that the market is too small for three operators.

They could be right going by their justifications.

Undoubtedly, the capital investment required to start a telecom company is very high, justified only if the customer base is large. Our population is not a large market.

Further, the two companies have to take their services to remote areas where the returns will leave them in the red for several years.

Tashi Cell, which has been operating for the last eight years, is still yet to make a profit.

A third operator in the market could further decrease revenue for the two telecom companies and result in deterioration of service quality.

It must also be acknowledged that the two companies have been trying to improve their services.

Bhutan Telecom invested Nu 700 million last year to improve their services. Their plans include installing up to a thousand WiFi access points nationwide to decongest their 3G network, and doubling the capacity of their core network, among others.

Tashi Cell recently installed more base stations in Thimphu and in Phuentsholing. These are welcome investments from the two companies.

We understand the high costs associated with such investments.

But the two companies must also understand that with 3G devices getting cheaper and more people moving online, data consumption will only increase. This is the direction the entire world is moving in and Bhutan is no exception.

There is a need for the companies to study and plan to keep ahead of this increase.

Despite being a small customer base, expectations of customers will always be high. This is also a natural phenomenon. It will be a safe assumption to say employees of the two telecom companies also will high expectations of quality services from other companies, no matter the investment.

Again, the high capital costs is understood.

But there are areas that can be further improved that do not require high costs.

Customer services has improved for both companies, but there is much room for improvement. Responding to complaints, trouble shooting, informing customers in advance or during technical problem situations, can all be improved.

When problems with B-Wallet surfaced, customers were simply told it was not the telecom company’s problem but the bank’s. No customer would be happy when blame is simply passed along. Acknowledge the problem and try to help the customer find a solution for every problem.

If this is too much to ask, then allowing a third operator is the way forward.

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