Telecom regulator NTA has proceeded to revoke Smart Cell’s license as the operator failed to pay its dues. The company was to pay 59.88 crores in its first installment last Friday (January 14) but missed it. Now, the regulator is preparing to de-authorize its services.
The operator is already on a reprieve by the government. But it has missed its first installment dues for 2 years already. NTA had decreed that Smart Cell pay approximately 5.5 Arab by the end of last Poush.
The regulator took the decision to revoke Smart Cell’s license on Shrawan 13, 2076 for its financial liabilities.
NTA Chairman Purushottam Khanal says the authority would grant the operator a time for clarification but will move ahead with a plan to invalidate the company.
Smart Cell’s 5 Installment Dues
Smart Cell‘s financial woes have continued for a long and thus could not clear its liabilities to the regulator. It has been on borrowed time for two years already. The telecom regulator NTA decided to de-authorize it back in 2076. Then the operator knocked on the doors of the Council of Ministers and saved itself. The then government on 2077 Poush 21 ordered that the operator shall pay its dues in five installments.
Smart Cell was ordered to pay 59 crores 88 lakh for frequency in the first installment, 83 crores and 23 lakh in the second, 77 crores, and 40 lakh in the third. Meanwhile, it shall pay 71 crores, and 56 lakh in the fourth, and 65 crores and 72 lakh in the fifth installment.
Smart Telecom’s Dues
Besides, Smart Cell also has to fulfill its 1 Arab, 25 crores for license renewal in its 8th installment.
Despite receiving extensions to pay its bills, Smart Cell has not been able to do so. The government had extended the deadline for payment on Bhadra 29, 2077 for six months. This followed after another extension on Chaitra 1 2077. The latest extension till Poush was offered by KP Oli’s government on 2078 Ashar 28.
But Smart Cell sent a letter on Poush 14 to the MoICT with a plea that it wouldn’t be able to meet the installment payment in time. The company said that it could pay only 20 crores for the time being and sought a one-year extension for the rest. Smart Cell pointed to COVID-19 and its impact on its mobile operations for its financial woes.
Smart Cell is the third-largest telecom operator in Nepal with coverage in major areas across the country. The company offers 2G for reliable voice calls and 4G network for fast mobile broadband. As per the latest report, it has 1 lakh, 5 thousand, 7 hundred, and 45 subscribers on 4G.
While NTC and Ncell enjoy a large share of the telecom market in Nepal, Smart Cell has become the odd one out. Financial woes, decreasing customers, and the COVID-19 vodoo have all worsened its already ill-fated financial books. To make it worse, NTA is on its course to revoke Smart Cell’s license.
What do Smart Cell’s financial woes reflect about the telecom operators’ business potentials in the country? Can any other operator break the sheer dominance of NTC and Ncell in Nepal Do offer your inputs in the comments below?