Smart Cell, a private telecom operator in Nepal, has had its unified license revoked by the Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) after the company failed to clear its dues. Despite being given a deadline until Baisakh 03 to pay its renewal charges of Rs 20 billion and Rs 3 billion in fines, Smart Cell was unable to comply. According to the Telecommunication Act, 2053, if a company fails to pay its renewal charges, its operating license expires automatically.
Smart Cell's financial issues have been ongoing for years, resulting in a lack of infrastructure maintenance and service disruptions across the country. Despite acknowledging its fate, the telco has gone to court in a final attempt to keep its license. However, the license has been automatically canceled, and the NTA will now enforce the “property management regulations of Telecommunication Service Providers Without a License 2079 bylaw” and take over Smart Cell's property.
NTA chairman Purushottam Khanal has directed Smart to continue its services in its existing sites, and the authority has called a meeting on April 17 to assess the company's property and form a committee for its asset management study. Smart Cell has a liability of Rs 30 billion to pay to NTA in license renewal, frequency charges, royalties, fines, etc.
The NTA spokesman has stated that the regulator will complete the takeover of Smart Cell in the next 15 days and send a letter to the telco informing it of the imminent acquisition. Smart Cell will have 15 days to prepare for handing itself over, during which time the company can continue operating the network. However, afterward, the regulator will start its asset management.
The Patan High Court has also issued a show cause order in response to Smart Cell's automatic license revocation on Baisakh 03, 2080. The court has ordered the Nepal Government and NTA to discuss the issue and bring it to the table for an interim order.