Dorji Wangmo and  Sonam Deki | Interns

Internet users in Paro, the thromdes in Thimphu, and Phuentsholing can now subscribe to fifth-generation (5G) services after Tashi InfoComm Limited launched the services yesterday.

In its initial offer, the company is providing three 5G services. Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) 5G service can be used by existing 3G/4G subscribers with 5G compatible handsets without having to pay a premium for the higher speed provided by 5G.

The other two services are “5G Unlimited” and “5G Broadband,” which customers can choose from if they want unlimited usage with speed constraints or unlimited speed with volume restrictions respectively.

Existing 2G/3G/4G mobile users can subscribe to mobile data plans ranging from Chenpo 777 to Office Chenpo 2999 to experience 5G eMBB.

TashiCell Managing Director Tashi Tshering said that in comparison to 3G/4G, 5G technology could enable faster (10x faster) speeds, lower latency, and more network capacity.

“Any resources will have constraints,” Tashi Tshering said. “So if the number of users increases, 5G will become slower. However, when individuals utilize 5G services, it frees up space for 4G users to enjoy faster internet.”

TashiCell’s 5G services are currently accessible in Paro (Bondey to Kichu), the thromdes of Thimphu (Babesa to Thimphu gate, including Debsi), and Phuentsholing (core/town area), which is expected to reduce network congestion in these major urban areas.

TashiCell officials said that in the first quarter of 2022, the company intends to roll out 5G services in the headquarters of the remaining dzongkhags, followed by Gyalsung training sites and other satellite towns by the end of the year.

According to the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority’s (BICMA) annual report for 2020-2021, Bhutan has 762,975 mobile customers, with TashiCell accounting for 39 percent.

With the launch, TashiCell has become the 184th operator in the world to commercially launch 5G services and Bhutan becomes the 75th country with live 5G services.

Officials said that there was a common misperception that the introduction of 5G would have an adverse impact on the environment and health.

TashiCell General Manager of the Department of Strategic Planning and Projects Jamyang said that the design standards of the equipment were within International Standards and are accepted by the World Health Organisation. “Bhutan’s 5G network, is within the international standards.”

He said that to compensate for the forests cleared to install its towers, the company has adopted more monopoles with even smaller footprints.