More than three months after the gewog leaders raised the issue of cellular connectivity in the Dzongkhag Tshogdu in Sarpang, mobile network has improved a bit in Chuzargang and Umling gewogs.

Umling gup Ugyen Norbu said three of its five chiwogs have severe network problems. Cellular signals are so weak that people cannot make calls, let alone use Internet. Of the 350 households in Umling, at least 60 percent are affected by poor connectivity. Rijoog, Tashithang and Gaden chiwogs are hit the worst.

He said that in a year’s time, the new drungkhag office would complete in Umling, after which Bhutan Telecom has agreed to install a new tower to improve network. “We’re waiting for the drungkhag administration to begin operation here and are hopeful that the network would improve then,” he said.

However, Tashi Cell network is relatively strong and people have been using it.

Local leaders said that poor cellular network affects daily official work. When services are not good, information pertaining to security from gewogs cannot reach the dzongkhag administration on time and the gewog often remains uninformed.

The same issue confronts Chuzargang gewog. Gup Sangay Tshering said that the gewog is unable to provide service at the Community Centre that requires Internet connectivity. “We’ve become dependent on cellular network to get our work done but poor network affects our work,” the gup said.

He added that after the issue was discussed at the DT, Bhutan Telecom worked on it and the network has improved only slightly.

Bhutan Telecom officials said that in the tower located at Chuzargang, there are some issues with cell definition, which cause interference in signal and results in call failure. The service provider did not have software to define cells earlier.  “We’ve now properly defined cell name and the network has improved,” one of the officials said.

The officials added that everything possible have been improved in the software and for further improvement in network, the height of the tower needs to be raised, which is difficult.

One of the reasons cited for the weak network signal in Chuzargang is because most settlements are surrounded by tall areca nut trees that somehow block signal. Until two years ago, the network was strong when the tower was installed near Pemachholing lhakhang that is on a higher ground. Following some land issue, the tower was relocated near the gewog center and the network began becoming an issue.

At the DT, chairman Nim Dorji Sherpa said that better communication is essential and the government has policy to provide one. He urged service providers to consider improving network and plan better activities in the 12th Plan.

Nirmala Pokhre | Tsirang