…both telecoms have already initiated development activities

Lhakpa Quendren

Sarpang—Bhutan Telecom (BT) and TashiCell will install more mobile towers and monopoles in Sarpang and Gelephu to enhance the network capacity, to prepare for the upcoming Gelephu Special Administration Region (GeSAR) developments.

BT has allocated Nu 500 million for Sarpang and Nu 436 million for Gelephu thromde in the 13th Plan, while TashiCell has allocated Nu 874 million for communication development activities.

BT allocated Nu 124 million for this financial year to establish eight mobile towers and six monopoles in areas with slow connectivity or areas that cannot be covered by towers. Currently, under BT coverage, there are 36 mobile towers and 25 monopoles in Sarpang.

Officials from BT’s central region in Gelephu, during the recent Sarpang Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT), said that 28 percent of the total budget of the region has been prioritised for Sarpang.

“Reliable internet service has become very important for Gelephu,” he said, adding that the plans and activities will be presented to the experts of the Gelephu Mindfulness City.

To provide a 100 percent reliable mobile network, at least 20 additional mobile towers are required in Sarpang. Currently, the mobile network coverage stands at 95 percent. Construction of nine mobile towers and six monopoles is planned for next year, according to a BT official.

“In the past, a single tower could provide network services to about four to five gewogs.

Now, we have to take the tower closer to households, which would cost about Nu 7 to 8 million for each tower,” said the official.

Bhutan Telecom will also replace the traditional copper wire with optical fibre installation wherever feasible, with ongoing replacement progress at 90 per cent completion in Gelephu and Sarpang.

The official also said that the government is in discussions regarding the third internet gateway. “With digitalisation, it has become important to provide 4G services to every household,” he added.

As the existing tower at the Gelephu International Airport is currently unable to provide the required services, it would be challenging once development activities begin if network service enhancement is not considered, according to the official.

The ongoing tower construction at the Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary is expected to be completed by the end of this month.

In addition, a mobile tower will be erected to serve two households in Hungrelthang for the Draagchhu chiwog in Chhudzom.

Out of the Nu 874 million allocated for five-year development activities in Sarpang, TashiCell has allocated Nu 512 million for the construction of 64 mobile towers and additional monopoles.

TashiCell’s official from the Gelephu regional office stated that 20 mobile towers will be constructed in phases this year, with an additional 17 towers to be erected next year. Currently, there are 32 mobile network towers in Sarpang under TashiCell.

The tower constructions were completed for Dechenpelri and a monopole for Tareythang, while constructions were awarded for Samtenling, Pelrithang, Chhuzagang, and Jigmechholing. Feasibility studies have been ongoing for other sites, according to the regional office.

TashiCell has initiated a data centre in Gelephu with plans for an additional centre through outsourcing within the next five years.

Depending on the clusters, he said, 5G services will be expanded from the existing eight sites to 20 sites with the allocated budget of Nu 106 million. “We have allocated Nu 15 million for establishing Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) with new technology.”

Other activities include enhancing mobile data, internet leased lines, SMS services, devices, mobile CPE (Customer Premises Equipment), e-money services, software development through outsourcing, web and mail hosting, and international roaming.