No market for third telecom operator says PM

The possibility of having a third telecommunications company in the country is not possible. According to the Prime Minister, there isn’t enough room for another telecom operator in the Bhutanese market right now. The Prime Minister shared this during a recent meeting with some members of the private sector in the capital.

Mobile and internet connectivity continues to be a headache for Bhutanese citizens across the country.

With only Bhutan Telecom and Tashi Cell providing telecommunication services in the country, many believe the arrival of a third company would foster healthy competition and lead to improved services.

“If there is a third telecom operator, Tashi Cell and B-Mobile will have competition, that might help decrease the data charges since the telecom operators will have to compete for customers,” said Khachap Dorji, a resident.

“Being a student, I need data for online classes and assignments. The 99 data isn’t sufficient for me at all. I think the government should do something about it,” said Tenzin Choney Sherpa, a student.

“I don’t know why the data charges are so high. Right now, my child is not even in school, and still, my expenses on mobile data are high. I can’t imagine the data expenses when my child starts going to school,” said Nirmala Sharma, another resident.

But the wait for the arrival of a new telecom operator looks likely to continue for now. Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering says accommodating another telecom company would require additional infrastructure while straining the existing ones and disrupting the current balance achieved by the existing operators.

“When we discussed about whether we should entertain a third telecom operator, everyone, experts, bureaucrats and the cabinet agreed that opening up a third telecom operator could be very disruptive. We discussed that if one of the existing operators does not get the license and a new operator does, the costs would go up. Everyone raised concerns about what would happen to the existing infrastructures.”

Addressing queries, the Prime Minister said adding another one would not have much benefit to the public.

“There is no room for a third telecom operator for 681,000 Bhutanese. To divide the profit margin of the already existing two telecom operators among three operators would not benefit the public much.”

As of December 2021, there were more than 750,000 internet users and almost 780,000 mobile users in the country.

Karma Samten Wangda and Tashi Yangden

Edited by Yeshi Gyaltshen

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