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Mobile, Internet, and Broadband Penetration in Nepal

Big room for the expansion of broadband internet in Nepal, both fixed and mobile.

The telecommunication development of the country used to be measured by teledensity only, which is the percentage of telephone access to people. Then came mobile and broadband penetration into the measurement which are now key indicators for the percentage of mobile and broadband access to people. Below in this post, we will be updating broadband penetration among major telecom services (fixed and wireless) in Nepal as per the latest data by NTA.

What is broadband internet anyway?

Since we are discussing broadband penetration, it is important to know what broadband means beforehand. The common understanding is that broadband means the internet. It is true but it doesn’t mean the whole truth. Broadband means a type of connection that transcends regular or old-generation internet speeds. This could even vary from country to country. So, what is considered a broadband connection in Nepal?

Earlier, an internet connection with a speed greater than 512 Kbps is considered broadband internet in Nepal, as per the NTA broadband policy. Previously every home internet access other than dial-up connections was considered broadband internet. But nowadays, broadband internet does not include GPRS, EDGE, or any other lower-speed internet connection from older generations. Fortunately, most of the areas in Nepal today have a high-speed mobile broadband connection as telcos have accelerated their network expansion in rural areas too.

But, if we calculate the total internet penetration including all of the slow-speed services, then the total population connected by the internet would soar very high. We hope we have cleared you enough on the perceived meaning of broadband internet in Nepal. Now, let’s head to the factual data.

Find out: Meaning of Mobile Network Signs | G, E, 3G, H/H+, 4G, 5G, VoLTE

Telephony and broadband penetration in Nepal

The regulator NTA’s latest data has shown that the teledensity in Nepal has reached over 139%. The telephony services in Nepal include GSM, WCDMA, and CDMA, etc. Mobile penetration has surpassed 141%. This is a very high percentage of service coverage over cellular service. However, it does not necessarily mean that mobile network has become equally accessible all across Nepal. The real-time data is lower than that as that would actually count the unique mobile service subscribers. If we take into account the dual SIM customers, SIM owners who moved abroad, old age/infant people, discarded SIM cards, etc., the unique Mobile penetration would come down below 100%.

Meanwhile, the data shows that 98.55% of Nepalese have access to mobile broadband internet services. By broadband service, it means cellular connection in mobile technologies such as WCDMA/EVDO (3G), and LTE (4G). On the other hand, fixed line services include ADSL, Coaxial cable, FTTH, and WiMAX services. The data shows that wired internet service leaves a lot to do in terms of expansion in comparison to mobile broadband. Nepal faces impediments to communication expansion due to uneven terrain, costly setup, and maintenance in such adverse areas. The other reasons include the unavailability of mobile internet in remote areas and the use of feature phones.

Broadband internet stats in Nepal

Nepal has left behind the horrendous suffrage of dial-up internet 3G, 4G, ADSL, and fiber system whose speeds range from at least 1 Mbps to 10 Mbps on average. Lately, private ISPs have contributed greatly to the fiber internet service in Nepal with the speed war. As of the latest stats, fixed-line broadband reach has surpassed 31% of coverage by 2079 Baisakh. The data shows that there are 19 lakh, 94 thousand, 7 hundred, and 63 unique fiber internet subscribers in Nepal.

Meanwhile, there are just 4 lakh 81 thousand, 2 hundred, and 26 ADSL users. The total has decreased from the previous month. As per the Chaitra, 2078 data there were over 5 lakh users. The company saw a decline of copper-based customers by 19 thousand, 5 hundred, and 31 users.

NTC is the only company that provides copper-based ADSL services. But the company has itself begun providing FTTH service and is replacing ADSL in recent years. This should explain the dwindling ADSL users. At the same time, we can consider NTC ADSL lines as broadband since it is capable of over 5 Mbps speeds.

Fiber connection port
fiber internet connection ports

4G dominates mobile broadband service in Nepal

Among the subscribers with mobile internet, WCDMA, EVDO, and LTE (4G) technology can be considered broadband internet. The data shows that WiMAX has over 27 thousand customers. However, Ntc has already shut down the service and is migrating the existing WiMAX customers to the 4G network.

However, real mobile broadband is the domain of 4G and it is flourishing in Nepal. Currently, there are 1 crore, 76 lakh, 66 thousand, 6 hundred, and 96 subscribers in total. The number is split among Ntc, Ncell, and Smart Cell with the first two boasting the duopoly in the Nepali telecommunications market. The government-backed telco Ntc is leaving both other telcos far behind in the 4G service. The company has a strong base of 1 crore, 8 lakh, 94 thousand, 3 hundred, and 70 subscribers on its 4G LTE network. Ntc also provides Carrier Aggregated broadband speed and VoLTE for HD voice.

Meanwhile, the private telco Ncell has connected 66 lakh, 18 thousand, 3 hundred, and 98 subscribers on its 4G cellular service. The telco has soft-launched the Voice over LTE feature recently for a select few handsets. Smart Cell that provides 4G on the single band has just below 1 lakh, and 54 thousand subscribers as per the recent data.

The rise of 4G users in Nepal is attributable to the increase in smartphone reach. Smartphone penetration has actively helped grow mobile network expansion and data consumption, especially among the youth.

The major broadband stats

Here is a table for the calculation of the broadband internet penetration in Nepal, which we think NTA should publish in their MIS regularly.

S.NTechnology/services for broadband in Nepal
Number of subscribers
14G (LTE)1,76,66,696
2WCDMA, HSPA (3G)1,09,66,770
3EVDO, CDMA 136,573
4ADSL4,81,226
5WiMAX27,185
6Fixed Internet via Fiber/Coaxial
(ISPs Fiber, Ntc FTTH, Coaxial cable)
86,49,841
7Radio (WiFi)77,738
8Lease line internet (Ntc)1,174
Total broadband users3,80,07,203
The population of Nepal (2021 census)29,192,480
Total Broadband penetration against the population 125.94% 130.19%
We have excluded some internet services to make this table succinct and relevant

As the table shows, the total broadband penetration in Nepal stands at 130.19% which is an increase of 4.25%. In the previous month, the same figure was 125.94%. But we can’t get fooled by over 100% data already.

As we stated above, the total broadband percentage gives an impression that all Nepalese are covered by some form of high-speed internet. But it doesn’t include the variables such as the overlap of 3G and 4G connections. Meanwhile, the unique subscription of fiber service is just reaching 1.9 million and not reaching 8.7 million (when calculated by NTA’s 1 connection to 4.3 user ratio) which reduces the actual numbers very low.

Still room for expansion

That means Nepal still has an immense task to do for the expansion of broadband internet in Nepal, especially in fixed-line services. For this, the regulator has to introduce broadband-friendly policies and encourage service providers to expand to rural areas. This also includes freeing up sub 1 GHz frequencies for broadband networks (either 3G or 4G). In addition, NTA should also amplify subsidies to the operators for the 4G rollout using the Rural Telecommunications Development Fund.

Read: NTA to Allocate More Frequencies for 4G Network

Similarly, telecom operators and ISPs both need to jointly invest more resources to provide broadband service and help reduce the digital gap. Wireless broadband is one of the most feasible internet solutions for a country like Nepal with complex geography and that is where telcos and ISPs need to focus more on rural expansion.

Tell us what you think of the Broadband situation in the country, in the comment below.

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