Bhutan Telecom, TaschiCell and the information and communication ministry have identified a time-slot based access for students to ensure students have access to the online education.
With a time-slot based access, students can access the network during the low use periods in the two companies’ network and avoid the peak use periods that are generally in the afternoon.
The ministry (MoIC) is also exploring other ways and means to restrict student access to only educational resources through these special accounts. “This is done to avoid network congestion using mobile internet while allowing online learning to take place.”
Details on the time-slot and mobile data packages are being decided and will soon be announced.
MoIC is working with the education ministry and the telecom service providers to facilitate data access for eLearning for students across the country.
Since online education has become a priority, accessibility and affordability of mobile Internet for students has become essential. “We are therefore working with the telecom service providers to design a special Internet tariff for students to access online education,” a press release from MoIC stated.
“However, we must do so in a planned manner to avoid network congestion which would otherwise make the network unusable for everyone.”
The primary means of accessing the internet is through the mobile network in Bhutan.
There are other technologies such as fiber optics, and broadband to access the Internet. However, the majority of these connections are in public offices and businesses. This does not help when people are trying to avoid gatherings and are staying at home.
The demand for internet capacities over the mobile network has increased significantly following the Covid-19 global pandemic, and the telecom service operators are already reporting increasing congestion in parts of their network, the ministry stated.
The demand for internet capacities is expected to increase, as more and more people choose to work from home. Similarly, the use of online entertainment platforms, including video streaming and video conferences would also increase pressure on the finite capacity of the existing mobile internet infrastructure.
More congestion expected
The existing mobile infrastructure is not designed for such unplanned demand and will invariably result in congestion, similar to when there are huge gatherings like national celebrations and sporting events.
“If we allow such unplanned use of the network it will become congested across the country and unusable for everyone. Therefore the ministry in consultation with the telecom service providers, plans to adopt measures to use the available capacity optimally while reducing congestion that would make the network unusable.”
The ministry stated that Bhutan is not alone in facing internet infrastructure congestion amid the global outbreak of Covid-19.
“Around the world, authorities are facing similar challenges as a result of an unanticipated spike in demand for internet access amid the current Covid-19 global pandemic.” Countries such as China and Italy, it stated, have experienced up to 70 percent increase in their total mobile network capacity, which no mobile operator would plan for.
While the ministry is exploring more measures to avoid congestion in the national internet infrastructure in close collaboration with the telecom service providers, ISPs and TV cable operators, the public is requested to take more responsibility in their online habits given the current situation.
The ministry is asking parents and students to responsibly use the internet for online education.
The ministry stated that it would ensure that telecom service providers closely monitor the usage of the internet infrastructure to better understand the usage trends and adjust their existing resources accordingly for the optimal benefit of the people of Bhutan.