Cable cuts occur as a result of construction activities in Thimphu city 

ICT: In what should allow Bhutan Telecom to fix internet cables that have been severed by construction activities in a faster and more efficient way, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) donated a Nu 4 million specially equipped “splicing” van to the company, yesterday.

The van will provide technicians with an environment that protects the splicing or re-joining of cables from dust and rain at the site of the cut. Re-joining optical fibre cables is a complex task requiring that either the numerous split ends be welded back together or perfectly aligned using special equipment.

Any impurities such as dust or water that enter the new joints can significantly disrupt a cable’s ability to transmit information.

Prior to this, technicians would work under umbrellas or tarpaulin sheets in a largely open environment to re-join cut cables.

The van is also equipped with a generator to provide technicians with electricity to power their splicing machines and therefore make them less reliant on external power sources.

Bhutan Telecom CEO, Tshewang Gyeltshen, said the van would lead to less down-time when a optical fibre cable is severed and more reliable fixes.

Internet services are currently provided through radio waves using towers and optical fibre cables.

However, as optical fibre allows for terabytes of data to be transmitted which is significantly more than the megabytes allowed using radio, the company is laying more cables throughout Thimphu city and is in the process of connecting all their towers with cable.

“The only risk in fibre is cuts,” Tshewang Gyeltshen said. “Yes, to an extent,” he said on whether the problem is frequent.

With numerous construction activities already occurring and expected to take place in Thimphu city, the risk of more cable cuts and therefore internet disruptions cannot be ruled out.

Asked what a solution to the problem might be, Tshewang Gyeltshen said that permanent ducts that house service cables is the way forward.

Bhutan Telecom has been informing the thromde that it will contribute to the building of such ducts, the CEO said. He added that in Dechencholing, Bhutan Telecom had worked together with the thromde to build permanent ducts that also house power cables and serve as an outlet for sewerage.

He pointed out that Thimphu city lacked a complete structural plan but where ever possible, the telecommunications company has worked to integrate its cables with the two other organizations, he said.

Tshewang Gyeltshen said that Bhutan Telecom wants to work together with the thromde and build such infrastructure together so that resources can be saved, efficiency improved, and problems minimized. The thromde does inform Bhutan Telecom when they award building contracts, yet cuts can still occur especially if it is a private construction activity, he said.

However, it was also pointed out that construction activities are not the only reason for cable cuts.

The telecom company found that in the south of the country ants have taken a liking to their optical fibre cables. Bhutan Telecom lost some cable to ants in Sipsu and Gelephu. But it was pointed out that the problem is not widespread.

Gyalsten K Dorji