Sherab Lhamo

After eight years of negotiations with India and Bangladesh, the much-anticipated third internet gateway for Bhutan is expected to operationalise soon, once the Service Level Agreement is drawn between the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Bhutan Telecom Limited.

The Government of India (GoI) has identified Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) a public sector telecom service provider in India as their counterpart, for Bhutan, Bhutan Telecom will be initiating the project forward. 

Currently, BSNL and Bhutan Telecom are discussing the Service Level Agreement terms and Conditions for the Third Internet Gateway project.

BSNL and Bhutan Telecom are also discussing to minimise downtime for the third internet gateway link and improve the overall resilience of Internet connectivity in the country.

The gateway will be established in Gelephu, Sarpang, connecting Gelephu-Bongaigaon-Agartala in India to Cumilla-Kuakata in Bangladesh to Singapore. 

The gateway is expected to help improve resilience and reliability as it provides a separate international internet route for the country, help reduce dependence on a single link, and provide a safety net.

The GovTech officials shared that GovTech along with relevant agencies is also exploring strategies to reduce the overall price of Internet for citizens.

The overall cost for the gateway is USD 8 per Mbps, GoI will be taking USD 3.5 per Mbps in the form of subsidy for the link, the remaining USD 4.5 Mbps will be paid to BSNL by Bhutan Telecom directly, for the whole link.

Bhutan is currently paying USD 7 per Mbps for internet connection through the Siliguri corridor.

The agreed subsidise is 10 Gbps internet link for the gateway, but to meet the redundancy services higher bandwidth would be required, the official said. 

“The gateway will be operationalise with 10 Gbps and given the friendly relationship we have with GoI, we foresee that both the countries will allow us to increase the bandwidth from 10 Gbps and the same offer could also be given to all our internet service providers,” said the official.

Bhutan currently has three nationwide internet service providers (ISPs) with international Internet gateways—Bhutan Telecom, Tashi Infocomm, and NANO through the Siliguri corridor in India.