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NTA warns to revoke UTL’s license, sets deadline for dues clearance

Telecom regulator Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) has warned UTL (United Telecom) Nepal that it will revoke the telco’s unified license over unpaid dues. The authority has set a deadline till the end of Magh for the company to pay the remaining charges or face the consequence.

The authority has demanded that UTL produces an original voucher of its dues payment at NTA.  

UTL is already not in active business and questions about its future have lingered for years. But the existing laws and Nta’s reprieve have allowed it to keep its license. But with recent developments regarding telcos’ licensing and the call for a third and competitive operator, the situation could be a do-or-die for the stagnant company.

In its notice, Nta has said UTL’s basic telephony license will be terminated as per the prevalent regulation.

Also read: Government can take over assets of telecom service providers

UTL’s dues

UTL is liable to pay installments for license renewal frequency, royalty, rural telecommunication development fund (RTDF), etc. In total, the telco is required to pay Rs 5 billion, 30 crores, 94 lakhs, 1 hundred, and 53 to the authority and Nepal government. NTA says the amount is the total accumulated till the end of Poush, 2079.

UTL Nepal GSM license
UTL Nepal

UTL received its unified license on 2073/5/20. The company has 80% investment in Indian ventures. Metropolitan Telephone Corporation Limited has 20.68% shares in the company. Likewise, telecommunication Consultant India and Tata Communication have a common share of 26.66%. Nepal Ventures, the only domestic company at UTL has 20% shares.

If UTL loses its license, the telco’s band frequency could go to other telecom companies. It has a spectrum n both 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands. However, the effect won’t be felt by the customers. The telco has not been active for service for years.

And again, there were some talks of UTL reviving its operation with 4G. It emerged that some Nepali companies were moving in to inject funds into the company to pull it through the crisis and activate its services while Indian investors were apparently pulling their hands out. But as the dues still remain a crisis, those might have been just speculations.

However, UTL still has a lifeline.

Supreme Court to the rescue!

Despite Nta drawing the attention of UTL to clear its bills or face license revocation, the ill-fated telco is likely to retain its license due to a Supreme Court ruling. In 2076, the authority sent a letter to the private operator to clear its arrears or face revocation of its license. 

But on Ashar 30 of the same year, UTL went to court. A single bench of Judge Purushottam Bhandari issued an interim order in favor of the company on Ashar 31. The order stated that Nta’s action shall not be implemented until further notice. Therefore, the protection by Supreme Court will out rule Nta’s own plan with UTL’s status.

The regulator though has filed a motion to vacate its decision in favor of UTL. However, there has been no hearing regarding it.

Check out: Telecom operators/companies in Nepal

Do you think UTL can survive through its financial crisis and retain the coveted unified license? You can share in the comments below.

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