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Nepal Telecom Plans to Shut Down CDMA Service This Fiscal Year

Nepal Telecom (NTC) is likely to complete the shutdown of its traditional CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) services (sky phone and C-phone) this fiscal year 2079/80. The government-backed operator is making its final preparation to phase out the dated wireless communication technology.

The company plans to shut down CDMA technology/services and replace its users with GSM (Global System for Mobiles) service. Earlier, the telco had planned for the CDMA sunset within 2020 but due to several issues shifted the date. Telcom operators have widely expanded GSM-based services including in rural areas which have made CDMA almost obsolete. Additionally, being an old technology, it is proving costly and hard to maintain for the company which is why it is being discarded.

Ntc introduced CDMA technology to provide communication service in rural areas for its ability to provide higher coverage however, with time it has gone of out prominence worldwide and remains a liability for Ntc too. The plan was to discontinue it last year however, due to still a high number of subscribers, the plan was postponed.

By cutting off CDMA, the telco will have more resources to expand and improve newer technologies such as 4G LTE and 5G in the near future.

The Radio Frequency Policy Determination Committee earlier decided to discontinue the CDMA service provided by Nepal Telecom before 2022. Not only Ntc, but several telcos around the world are also shutting down CDMA service. Let’s find out why.

Why are telcos shutting down CDMA?

Ntc introduced the CDMA service back in 2006. One of the great technologies at that time offered a wide range of frequency spectrum of 800MHz and 1900MHz, better call quality. CDMA had more potential than then GSM technology in terms of wide coverage and voice quality.

But there are still some areas where only CDMA mobile service is available. That’s why the telco kept on expanding CDMA to all parts of the country, but was later put on hold as the company decided not to invest in CDMA and WiMAX in 2017.

Nepal Telecom Ntc CDMA sky phone

As time passed by, technology changed rapidly, and so did GSM technology. We saw an evolution in GSM whereas the CDMA network got stuck at one point. The focus went more on 4G LTE, which is compatible with international standards and further evolution.

Find: How to use CDMA data packs in Nepal

CDMA has become a liability at the age of 4G and 5G

Similarly, the world is now shifting towards 5G network development. At this point, the telcos are not finding it economical or worth an investment to operate the CDMA service. That’s why several global telcos are switching from CDMA to GSM. Likewise in Nepal too, Ntc has started an internal trial of 5G which means older-generation mobile services will gradually see their decline.

Meanwhile, many global operators have also started shutting down either 2G or 3G technologies. European telcos such as Vodafone announced to discontinuation of 3G throughout Europe between 2020 and 2021.

Similarly, Deutsche Telekom, Swisscom, and Telefónica’s targets are to do the same within 2020, however, none of them has publicly stated to shut down 2G. In contrast to European telcos, most of the Asian telcos have already shut down 2G and may think about shutting down 3G.

Canadian companies like Bell and Telus and American companies like Sprint and Verizon are focused on 4G and 5G of GSM phones rather than 3G. Find why 4G is better than 3G mobile networks.

What’s the benefit of GSM over CDMA?

Though CDMA has some better aspects, the benefits of the GSM network overshadow them. Here are some benefits of GSM network over CDMA:

  • Generally, with a 3G CDMA network, making voice calls and transmitting data at the same time is not possible but, a 3G GSM network provides simultaneous voice and data service.
  • 4G LTE network provides greater coverage and better call quality at lower costs.
  • GSM network support is available on all mobile phones whereas, for CDMA, there are limited handsets available. So, switching to new phones with CDMA R-UIM cards is also limited.
  • GSM supports 4G and 5G networks, unlike CDMA, which only supports 2G and 3G. That is there is no further evolution of CDMA technology.

Check out: 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G mobile technologies explained simply.

Ntc planning measures to migrate users from CDMA to GSM technology before the former’s shutdown

CDMA shutdown is not happening instantly. NTA’s latest MIS data shows that there are 3 lakhs, 19 thousand, and 694 CDMA users. The telecom company is mulling over various strategies to smoothly transition its customers away from dated technology towards GSM services.

Ntc cdma to GSM migration
Ntc will first migrate its users on CDMA to GSM-based services before discontinuing the former

Earlier Ntc spokesman Shobhan Adhikari said that CDMA still has many subscribers so switching it off at once is not an option. The plan is to migrate the users to the GSM service first. “CDMA can’t be phased out without migrating its subscribers. We have launched several offers and packages to encourage users to migrate to other technologies,” Mr. Adhikari said. “But due to fixed rates, many are still hesitant to make the move. However, when everyone leaves the technology for another, we will shut it down,” he added.

In sum, Ntc is doing the following to motivate its CDMA customers to migrate to GSM services as the older technology heads for its shutdown:

  • Migration of CDMA customers to GSM service, with expanding its GSM towers to more areas.
  • Providing packages and encouraging them to move to GSM, w, or w/o keeping the same mobile number.
  • Handset bundling package to those subscribers who cannot afford to buy GSM phones.
  • Soon, a 4G router will be launched for CDMA data customers.

The end of CDMA means more resources for Ntc

As CDMA technology reaches its climax, users need to replace their CDMA phones with GSM. Ntc has covered 98% percent of local levels across Nepal with around 4000 4G towers while more expansion and improvement work is ongoing. If CDMA shuts down, Ntc will have more frequency bands to use for 4G and the operation cost will also go down for the telco. Also, the airwaves could go back to NTA which could help reduce operating costs for the operator. Various countries have stopped using CDMA service, and many have already pulled it down by 2022.

We recommend you read about the challenges of telecom operators in Nepal.

Have you ever used the CDMA service of Ntc and what are your thoughts on the telco planning its shutdown? Do you think it’s the right move as rural areas are still not perfectly covered by telecom coverage? Do share your opinion in the comments below.

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