Smart Telecom, which had its license revoked due to inability renew it’s license, has completely halted its operations. The regulatory body, Nepal Telecommunication Authority, had established a management group to ensure the regular provision of services by the company, but it failed to fulfill its responsibilities, resulting in this situation.
According to a senior official of the Nepal Telecommunication Authority, a few limited BTS (Base Transceiver Station) sites, including the main operating system of the Smart Telecom, have been shut down after the Nepal Electricity Authority, citing long-standing unpaid electricity bills, cut off power supply. Along with that, once the assigned system number in the Smart Telecom’s Assigned System Number (ASN) became zero, the company was removed from the records of the Asia Pacific Network Information System (APNIC).
The Nepal Telecommunication Authority had previously stated that it would not obstruct the mobile services provided by the Smart Telecom’s customers and would regulate the services through the management group. However, after the management group, formed under the coordination of board member Gokarna Sitaula, became inactive, the Smart Telecom’s services reached zero.
The information conveyed by the authority’s sources indicated that the meeting of the aforementioned group, responsible for establishing the Smart Telecom Steering Committee, could not take place. Anup Nepal, the Deputy Secretary nominated by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, declared that he would not be a part of the management group.
“In the absence of the representative of the concerned ministry during the committee meeting, the representative of the Ministry of Law and Finance also had to come for attendance,” stated an official from the authority. “As the Deputy Secretary Nepal was not present on behalf of the authority, another staff member was assigned to fulfill his responsibilities. However, the ministry also seemed indifferent to this matter.”
“Now the company’s services no longer exist. The management group, which was supposed to operate under its responsibility, has also not taken any action,” added the authority’s official. “When it came to selling the Smart Telecom as a whole or in parts, the application for the valuation committee was not even registered. Now, it is up to the authority to decide what to do in this situation.”
On 22 Baisakh, a notice was issued for the necessary list of members to form the Price Determination Committee. The information was published with a deadline of 15 days on 22 Baisakh. If there were not enough applications during that period, the authority would have issued another notice of 15 days on 8 Jestha. However, the authority has notified that there were not enough applications even within the extended time frame.
As a result, on 3 Baisakh, the authorization document was self-cancelled, and as per the investigation conducted by the authority’s team, it was found that out of the approximately 24 lakh users in the Smart Telecom’s network, only around 14 thousand customers were active. However, after the license was revoked and bank accounts were frozen, the company is no longer able to pay any bills, including electricity bills.
The Smart Telecom’s failure is a major setback for the Nepali telecommunications industry. The company was one of the three major players in the market, and its closure will leave a void that will be difficult to fill. It is also a reminder of the challenges facing the Nepali economy, which is still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Nepal Telecommunication Authority is now faced with the difficult task of finding a new buyer for the Smart Telecom’s assets. It is also a chance for the authority to learn from its mistakes and ensure that this does not happen again.