Friday, January 01, 2010

Bhutan - Bhutan Telecom to triple its international bandwidth

[kuensel] Within this month Bhutan Telecom will triple its international bandwidth to 330 mbps (mega bits per second) to address congestion issues, expand coverage of broadband services and create the infrastructure for IT-related businesses.

It recently upgraded its 45 mbps fibre optic London link to 155 mbps by leasing a new circuit through Bharti Airtel, India. This month it will also upgrade its second 45 mbps Hongkong link to 155 mbps with Reliance Globalcom, India.

“98 percent of our existing capacity of 110 mbps was being utilised with the present internet traffic,” said the manager of Druknet, Bhutan Telecom’s ISP provider, Tshering Norbu. The existing capacity is made of up the two 45 mbps fibre optic lines and an additional 20 mbps through satellite links to UK and the US.

Tshering Norbu said Bhutan Telecom internet users should experience faster internet speeds because congestion would be removed by the bandwidth expansion. “It’s like widening the highway, so people don’t have to cue to get on it,” he said. “There is a little work to optimise internet traffic load balancing and routing.”

One of the biggest advantages of the expansion is that it will not incur additional cost for Bhutan Telecom. “With more operators laying fibre optic cables towards north India, our bargaining position has improved unlike in the past,” said Bhutan Telecom’s promotional manager, Kencho Tshering. “We’re benefiting from the competition between Bharti Airtel and Reliance Globalcom,” said Tshering Norbu.

The expansion so far has not led to a downward revision of internet rates, but Bhutan Telecom officials said that any such move would be announced in the first quarter of 2010.

Given the small population and even fewer numbers that use the internet, Bhutan will have one of the world’s highest international internet bandwidth per person and per internet user with the expansion. “It’s an indicator to show that we can accommodate as many users,” explained Tshering Norbu.

But, in terms of accessibility, Bhutan is way down. The number of internet users in the country today is estimated at 30,000, about five percent of the population, even though a decade has passed since internet officially came to Bhutan. Users are concentrated in the urban centres of Thimphu and Phuentsholing.

Most Bhutanese cannot afford to buy and own a computer even though it is getting cheaper every year. Neither has it yet become a priority to own one, according to Tshering Norbu. “It’s changing slowly but I think most people still prefer owning an imported bow, which is much more expensive,” he said.

Accessing the internet has diversified in recent years through broadband services and GPRS and G3 mobile internet services. Bhutan Telecom records show that there are about 12,000 users registered for mobile internet services and more than 4,100 registered for broadband services. “These number don’t necessarily mean that people are using the services,” said Tshering Norbu. “Some have signed up out of curiousity and others don’t want to spend extra when their offices provide free internet.”

Bhutan Telecom to triple bandwidth

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