Govt. in talks with telcos to slash data charges

Thinley Namgay

The government, in collaboration with Bhutan Infocomm and Media Authority (BICMA), is discussing with the two telecom service providers, Bhutan Telecom and Tashi Cell, to reduce data charges.

The minister for information and communications ministry, Karma Donnen Wangdi, said this while answering Kilkhorthang-Mendrelgang Member of Parliament, Bimal Thapa’s query on government’s strategies and plans to reduce higher data charges of the two companies.

The MP said higher data charges burdened the people. He also asked the government’s plans to allow private telecom service provider.

Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi said while data charges are high compared to India, it is because they have a market of more than 1.3 billion people. “But acknowledging the importance of information and communication technology (ICT), the government is focusing on Digital Drukyul flagship programme in the current five-year plan to solve the issue.”

He said Nu 3 billion  was allocated for the Digital Drukyul flagship programme. “Providing quality public services through ICT is the key focus.”

Lyonpo also said the government had waived off five percent voucher tax.  “Telecom and other ICT equipment services related tax were all exempted.”

According to the minister, there has to be a proper research before allowing a third service provider. “If the service provider fails to provide quality services, it will be a problem.”

Meanwhile, Nanong-Shumar MP, Lungten Namgyel, also questioned the minister on the possibility of providing free equipment and devices to improve Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) signal in rural areas.

The MP said radio signal is not good in many communities. “The price of set-top boxes ranges from Nu 4,000 to Nu 12,000.”

He requested the minister if the government could provide it freely to the rural communities.

Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi said the government has not discussed anything about providing free set-top boxes. “BBS installed South Asia Satellite to provide better reach but there was problem while implementing.”

He, instead, asked the MPs to get the details of villages that do not receive proper television and radio signal.

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