The launch of the South Asia Satellite services next year would help provide 3G services in the highlands and Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) I and BBS II channels in remote areas of the country according to information and communications minister DN Dhungyel.

This was shared at the National Assembly yesterday in response to a question from North Thimphu MP Tshering on the possibility to up-grade 2G services in the highlands to 3G and 4G. Kengkhar-Weringla MP Rinzin Jamtsho asked on why the government restricted the broadcast of BBS I and BBS II channels through Direct-to-Home (DTH) television service despite it being popular and having a wider coverage.

Currently highlands such as Soe, Naro and Lingshi in Thimphu, and Laya and Lunana in Gasa have 2G services. There are 169 gewogs that have 3G services available from both the service providers – Bhutan Telecom limited and Tashi Cell.

Lyonpo DN Dhungyel said that Bhutan Telecom and Tashi Cell are unable to upgrade 2G to 3G services, as there are fewer users in the highlands and would not be profitable. “It will cost more than Nu 5M in each gewog to upgrade from 2G to 3G.”

He said that even electricity is yet to reach some of these places. Ground works for the supply of electricity has just completed in Lingshi but is yet to be tested while it has only been six months since electricity reached Soe, and work is ongoing in Naro gewog.

On Kengkhar-Weringla MP Rinzin Jamtsho’s question, lyonpo, said that there is nothing the government can do as the DTH television service provider is from abroad. “If BBS programmes are distributed by outside service providers, it is against the law.”

Although DTH is illegal, he said because people should have access to information  there is no action being taken.

Lyonpo said that through the universal service fund, which is set as a priority project in the 12th Plan, the government would help upgrade to 3G. He added that Bhutan is working towards establishing South Asia Satellite services by June 2018. “Once the ground station is ready, we would be able to provide telephone and television services to all places.”

Karma Cheki