NTA Chairperson Bhandari initiates ambitious regulatory reforms in telecommunications sector

KATHMANDU: The Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) is undergoing a paradigm shift under the leadership of its Chairman, Bhupendra Bhandari, as it moves towards becoming a pure regulatory body. Bhandari has declared a strategic shift in focus, emphasizing that the authority will now concentrate solely on its regulatory functions, leaving aside other ancillary tasks.

The decision comes in the wake of controversies surrounding various projects, including the Telecommunication Traffic Monitoring and Fraud Control System (TERAMOCS) and Mobile Device Management System (MDMS), which drew scrutiny from the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).

Recognizing the need to restore the authority’s credibility, especially after assuming office just a month ago, Bhandari has underscored his commitment to regulatory duties exclusively.

In a recent meeting with the Tech Journos Forum (TJF), Bhandari hinted at the authority’s disinterest in projects beyond its core mandates, such as broadband internet expansion and infrastructure development connecting district headquarters. His strategy involves a strict adherence to projects explicitly designated as essential for the authority’s functions.

Despite initial legal hurdles following his appointment, Bhandari has wasted no time in implementing the roadmap for the authority’s tasks. He has been working closely with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to expedite policy matters and streamline procedures in the telecommunications and information technology sectors.

He has also indicated the authority’s intention to adopt diverse regulatory instruments, akin to the Nepal Rastra Bank, to ensure robust management of the telecommunications sector. Plans are underway to establish legal frameworks for systematic operation and management of the sector, including thorough examinations of various regulatory tools and their implications.

To enhance operational efficiency, Bhandari has initiated regular discussions and briefings on technical and administrative matters with the authority’s branches. Despite facing challenges in understanding technical intricacies, given his background primarily in high-level management roles in telecommunication companies, Bhandari remains committed to mastering the complexities of regulatory governance.

He stated, “In the past, operators had control over the regulator, but that’s changing now. The authority is becoming more assertive and progressive. While we address any issues with operators, we never compromise on the quality of the service.”

One of Bhandari’s key priorities is to expedite policy matters critical for the industry’s sustainability once regulatory frameworks are in place. He has stressed the importance of timely action in collaboration with stakeholders to foster industry development and investor confidence.

Addressing concerns surrounding telecommunications infrastructure and service quality, Bhandari has announced comprehensive studies to assess nationwide wireless and wired infrastructure mapping. Collaborative efforts with major telecom operators like Nepal Telecom and Ncell are underway to install GPS systems on towers for accurate assessment and expansion planning.

Furthermore, plans are in motion to explore the feasibility of foreign investments and the integration of 5G technology to enhance telecommunications capabilities. Bhandari has also committed to improving the accuracy of the Monthly Management Information System (MIS) reports, ensuring transparency and reliability in data dissemination.

Bhandari emphasized the significance of reliable data, particularly for international stakeholders interested in Nepal’s telecommunications sector. “Our website will serve as the primary source of data for any international studies,” affirmed Bhandari. “However, we are committed to ensuring the reliability and accuracy of the information provided. Hence, all data, including that on our website, will undergo rigorous scrutiny.”

Following recent controversies surrounding contracts like TERAMOCS, the misuse of authority has led to an investigation. Bhandari’s statement reflects his commitment to boost morale by working diligently amid circumstances where employees might lose confidence. He has initiated preparations to enhance employees’ knowledge, skills, and abilities to ensure efficient operations.

Since assuming office, Bhandari has prioritized data-driven strategies for the telecommunications sector. He disclosed that NTA has already devised a roadmap for future endeavors, focusing on addressing existing challenges and implementing measures for improvement.

“We have outlined a roadmap for upcoming tasks,” Bhandari said, adding “Our focus will be on resolving issues in telecommunications service provision and implementing strategies to streamline operations and enhance overall service quality.”

Bhandari has announced the commencement of a comprehensive study of the country’s telecommunications network. As the governing body for the telecommunications sector, NTA has embarked on extensive research to evaluate the availability and quality of both internet and voice services across the nation.

As NTA sets out on its path towards regulatory excellence, Bhandari asserts that his vision and proactive approach mark the beginning of a new era in regulatory governance for Nepal’s telecommunications sector. With a strong emphasis on regulatory oversight and strategic planning, the authority seeks to address challenges and foster sustainable growth in the industry, guaranteeing fair access to telecommunication services across the nation.

Fiscal Nepal |
Monday March 18, 2024, 12:57:56 PM |

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