The Chairman of NTA (Nepal Telecommunication Authority), the telecommunication regulatory body, Purushottam Khanal has resigned from his post. As a lot of questions were raised about the irregularities at NTA for MDMS, Teramocs, etc, Khanal submitted his resignation on Jan. 9, 2024, morning. His resignation has been accepted at a Council of Ministers meeting on the same day.
He was appointed as the authority’s Chairman in July 2019 by KP Oli’s Government from an open competition, with a 5-year term. Therefore, his reign was to last till July 2024. He has decided to cut short his run as the head of the authority.
Professionally, Khanal has been going through tough times lately. He has been drawn into controversies regarding some ambitious NTA projects.
During his tenure, the telecom regulator brought various plans, policies, and regulations. However, some received skepticism. Projects such as Mobile Device Management System (MDMS) and Telecommunications Traffic Monitoring and Fraud Control System (TERAMOCS) were two major debate triggers. Both were heavily mired by controversies over possible irregularities.
NTA Chairman Khanal resigned after a difficult run lately
Some of the noticeable projects during his tenure were the formulation of the new QoS bylaw, Radio Frequency Policy, Infrastructure Sharing Price Determination Bylaw, etc. But the recent ones such as MDMS and TERAMOCS were controversial. Many questioned the procurement process of MDMS and TERAMOCS. Recently, the Public Account Committee declared TERAMOCS irrelevant and directed CIAA to conduct an investigation into its purchase. Khanal has defended the utility and relevancy of these projects.
There are also talks of the RTDF-funded Midhill Optical Fiber project not being completed in time. However, recently, Nepal Telecom (NTC) recently completed the MidHill optical fiber information highway project in Koshi Province.
There are also theories that the regulator could use TERAMOCS for phone tapping, which Khanal and the authority straightly rejected.
Search for the next NTA chair begins, the acting chair appointed
The same cabinet meeting today (Tuesday, January 9, 2023) has appointed an NTA board member Nabaraj Adhikari as the acting chairman to fill the vacant post. Adhikari will serve in the post till the government appoints the next NTA head. At the same time, a committee will soon be formed by MoCIT to recommend a candidate for the vacant post.
The Telecommunications Act, 2053 (1997) states that in the absence of the NTA chairperson, the government shall constitute a committee. The committee comprising experts from the field will make recommendations for the appointment of the Chairperson.
The resignation could be Meaningful in current times!
The resignation of Khanal is being seen meaningfully in current times. This year, Malaysian telco giant Axiata Group decided to exit from Nepal pulling out of Ncell. The revenue is declining for both Ntc and Ncell. Smart, CG Telecom and UTL were also stripped of operating licenses. The telecom industry had forgettable times in the past few months. Axiata’s decision to leave Nepal has raised several questions about whether Nepal’s telecom policy is conducive enough for foreign investment. Khanal’s resignation coming at such a critical time could be more meaningful than what meets the eye.
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