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Half of Nepal’s population use smartphones to access the internet

- Prahlad Rijal, KATHMANDU

Jul 10, 2019-

Nearly half of Nepal’s population access the internet via their smartphones, the latest telecommunications report shows.

The number of mobile internet users has jumped to 14.65 million as of April 2019, up 11 percent as compared to last year’s figure, thanks to increased coverage of 3G and 4G services. This translates to around 400 new mobile internet subscribers every hour.

The  growth in mobile internet users has been attributed to exponential growth in users from the rural areas as more people are using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and communication platforms like Viber, Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat.

While social networking sites are popular among teenagers and youths, platforms like Viber are popular among those having family members abroad.

According to the Management Information System (MIS) report released by the telecommunications authority on Tuesday, nearly 4 million new users overcame the digital divide in 2018-19.

 Min Prasad Aryal, spokesperson of Nepal Telecommunications Authority, said that the surge in mobile internet users could be attributed to the expansion of 3G and 4G coverage by telecom service providers.

“Users in sub-urban and rural areas have contributed to the exponential growth of mobile connectivity as they are increasingly opting to use mobile data over voice services and have gained access to social media easily,” said Aryal. 

As per the Digital Nepal Framework launched by the government in 2018, 4G services rollout will continue to remain a priority for telecom operators with 60 percent of Nepal’s cities getting 4G services in next 2-3 years and they are pouring the resources to meet the growing demand for data services.

“Expanding mobile broadband infrastructure in areas with difficult geographical terrain is feasible while implementing fixed and fibre connectivity poses insurmountable challenges,” Aryal said. 

However, at the current expansion rate of Internet services, the government’s target to build a ‘digital society’ connecting 90 percent of the population to the internet by 2020 remains a far cry. 

The report shows that broadband connectivity, both fixed and mobile has reached 63.31 percent in 2019 from 48.91 percent in 2018, falling short by 26.69 percent as 2020 draws closer.

The figures also highlight that mobile internet is yet to be realised by a large population despite the telecom authority’s data which suggests that 95.2 percent of the population live within range of a mobile tower.

At the macroeconomic level, voracious appetite for data is instrumental in growing the economy’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as efficient and quick transfer of data is directly linked with increase in productivity.

According to the World Development Report 2016, a 10 percent increase in fixed broadband penetration increases GDP growth by 1.38 percent in developing economies.

However, Nepal is yet to realise substantial growth in fixed broadband -- ADSL, cable and fibre -- connectivity, particularly fibre optic technology which ensures high-speed connections.

As per the MIS report, only 12.71 percent of total subscribers are connected through fixed lines as of date with only half a million Nepali subscribing to fibre optic connections sold by 39 internet service providers.

 

Published: 11-07-2019 07:00

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