Nepali Times: What has been the response to your services in Kathmandu?
I would like to thank our customers for the overwhelming response to our services. The number of customers are certainly not up to our expectations due to delay in launch of our handheld terminals which are easier to carry.
Any expansion plans?
Initially we set up our network with deployment of 14 BTSs to cover Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. In view of the high demand from the outskirt areas and the formation of two new municipalities of Thimi and Kirtipur in Kathmandu Valley, we recently added 11 more BTSs. Since our license covers services in the entire country, we will be expanding our services to other cities also.
Will you introduce other services besides WLL?
Apart from providing the WLL telephones, we are offering international lease circuits including provisioning of Internet bandwidth from level one Internet switches. We have also started providing ISD services by estabilishing a satellite earth station and an international gateway switch. Furthermore, we are planning to provide ISDN connectivity to corporate users/ business houses and E1 connectivity to Internet Service Providers.
There are reception complaints about WLL sets.
UTL has deployed latest CDMA 2000 1x technology which provides superior quality voice by optimal usage of available frequency spectrum.
Is competition going to get stiffer after deregulation in the telecom sector?
The launch of UTL was already the beginning of competition in telecommunications in the country. Hte opening up of the telecom sector is a win-win situation for all: incumbent operator, new operators, overall economy of the country and most importantly for the consumers.
But will prices go down?
Certainly. And there will be an improvement in the quality of service and customer interface. After UTL started ISD services through its own gateway, prices came down by as much as 70 percent. Calls to the Middle East which used to cost Rs 90 per minute are now down to Rs 25.
Should mobile phones be necessarily more expensive than the landlines? What is the basis of fixing the tariff?
Pricing primarily depends on the volumes. In most of the developed and few developing countries, the number of mobile customers have overtaken the number of fixed lines. With increasing numbers the rates will certainly come down.