Chhimi Dema

The mobile data traffic for Bhutan Telecom Limited (BTL) increased by 20 percent and nine percent for 4G and 3G networks respectively. While TashiCell saw an overall increase of 25-30 percent since the lockdown.

Users have been expressing their frustrations of receiving poor network connection on social media platforms since the lockdown.

The two telecom operators­ in the country said that there will be an increase in the data traffic as individuals work from home, surf the internet for Covid-19 updates and look for entertainment online.

BTL’s general manager Jigme Thinley said, “With this surge in data traffic, the handling capacity of the majority of 4G towers, for instance, have hit maximum limit due to which customers may be experiencing difficulties in getting a decent mobile internet connection.”

In addition, he said that the bandwidth or data traffic handling capacity of a mobile tower is a shared radio resource. As many users get latched to the mobile tower, the bandwidth share of individuals becomes lesser and impacts the quality of connectivity.

He said that the data traffic congestion overloads the capacity of mobile data network infrastructure, especially in areas like Thimphu, with high concentration of mobile users.

In order to optimise performance as the traffic increase, BTL is expanding the capacities of individual 4G or 3G towers where it is technically feasible.

Network densification—adding more equipment to receive and transmit radio signals for cellular voice and data transmission— would be installed on streetlight poles in areas where individual towers that has reached the maximum limit.

Jigme Thinley said, “These densifying sites sitting closer to the users would supplement the coverage areas either not at all served, or poorly served by the main towers.”

Although there was an overall increase in the network traffic for TashiCell, only 10 percent of their 4G networks were congested.

TashiCell’s general manager Namgay Wangchuk, said that the majority of TashiCell’s 4G networks across the country are underutilised and have the capacity to cater to the increasing network traffic.

The network congestion is faced by users of 3G and some 4G users in Thimphu, he said. The traffic for voice calls, however, has declined.

Namgay Wangchuk said that to optimise the performance of the network, TashiCell carried out major network expansion work and increased core network capacity.

Moreover, the process of distributing network traffic across multiple servers called load sharing algorithms was carried out prior the lockdown to ease network congestion, he said.