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Thimphu stalled in 3G logjam

Network congestion was caused by a lot of new users and even more data activity

Increased users and heavier data activity is being attributed for 3G (third generation) network congestion being experienced by users in Thimphu subscribed to services of Bhutan Telecom.

The telecommunications provider messaged customers that their 3G network is experiencing congestion, and urged them to use the older 2G (second generation) network or GSM technology, instead for voice calls, yesterday. The two networks are used for both voice and data transfer.

Switching to the 2G network for voice calls will require customers to manually alter phone settings.

The network congestion comes four months after the company switched its 3G frequency from 2100 MHz to 850 MHz in order to alleviate network congestion.  While the switch led to improved data speeds and network coverage, especially for indoor accessibility, users in Thimphu have been complaining that 3G services are slowing down again.

B-Mobile general manager, Pushpa Mani Pradhan, attributed the network congestion to increased users.  He said that there are nearly 30,000 customers using 3G services today.

Most of these customers are based in Thimphu.

But Bhutan Telecom’s existing infrastructure in Thimphu can handle only between 500-600 simultaneous 3G connections, according to Pushpa Mani Pradhan.  During peak hours, the number of simultaneous 3G users already exceeds a thousand users, he said.

He also said that users are also more frequently engaged with data heavy activities, such as using social media platforms.

To address the network congestion, the company is in the process of installing five more 3G base stations in Thimphu by October.  There are currently 20 3G base stations in the capital city.

However, whether the five additional base stations will significantly decongest the 3G network is questionable. “It’s difficult to say, if the present trend continues,” said Pushpa Mani Pradhan, referring to the significant spikes in customers and data usage in the past four months.  At the end of last year, there were 18,686 3G users. “We didn’t expect users would jump by this much,” he said.

While there may be improvements, he said that budget constraints may impede further efforts to improve capacity this year.  He pointed out that the budget constraint would arise, because the company plans out expansion on a yearly basis.

Some relief may come from competitor Tashi InfoComm, which will introduce its own 3G services in July.  The private telecommunications company is already currently testing its 3G services.

Meanwhile, Bhutan Telecom is currently in the process of introducing 4G (fourth generation) services in Thimphu.  The service should become available within this year, according to telecom officials.

By Gyalsten K Dorji

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One comment

  1. you tell 3G is problem and use 2G yet you are installing 4G, are you serious or just showing off.

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