Despite cellular boom fixed-telephone line subscription increases

Sonam Penjor

Fixed-telephone line subscription in the country in 2020 saw an increase of about 6.5 percent in its subscriptions base in comparison to 2019.

The total number of fixed telephone line subscriptions in 2020 was 22,987 that is 1,406 subscribers more than 2019 which accounts for 3.1 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.

From among the various means of telecommunication services available, according to the annual Info-Comm and Transport Statistical Bulletin, published by Ministry off Information and Communications, fixed-telephone line is one of the oldest modes of telecommunication services used in the country.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimated that in 2019, European countries had 32.9 fixed telephone line subscriptions per 100 inhabitants followed by the Americas with 21.3. The CISs countries had 17.6 while the Asia Pacific Regional countries accounted for nine subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.

Additionally, land locked countries were estimated to have 3.4 fixed telephone line subscriptions per 100 inhabitants by the ITU.

It also states that Bhutan had 2.9 subscription for 100 inhabitants in 2019 and 3.1 per 100 inhabitants in 2020.

Low level of fixed telephone line subscription is a global phenomenon and not specific to any country. In case of Bhutan, the low level of fixed telephone line uptake could be attributed to the rise in mobile cellular service.

B-Mobile (Bhutan Telecom Ltd), a state owned enterprise and Tashi-Cell (Tashi Info-Comm.

Ltd), a privately owned enterprise are the two mobile service providers in the country. Their mobile services are now available in all the 20 Dzongkhags and Gewogs except for few remote villages.

It further states that the two operators had a combined subscription base of 745,137 as of last year accounting to an increase of 2.2 percent from 2019. Of the total, Bhutan Telecom had 466,796 and Tashi Cell had 278,341 mobile cellular subscribers. However, these are passive subscriptions of 43,776 for Bhutan Telecom and 36,980 for T-cell last year.

ITU in 2020 estimated that the world, on average, had 105 mobile cellular subscription per 100 inhabitants. The developed countries had 133.4 mobile cellular subscription per 100 inhabitants, the Developing countries had 99.3, the least developed countries had 74, and the land locked developing countries had 79.1 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.

In comparison, Bhutan had 99.5 mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, which is better than the average of developing countries.

Meanwhile, Druknet (Bhutan Telecom), Drukcom, Tashi-Cell, Supernet InfoComm, Bitcom Systems, Datanet Wifi, and Nano are the seven licensed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country providing wide range of internet services.

The overall internet subscriptions in the country as of last year stands at 734,667 subscriptions that’s a decrease of 10 percent in comparisons to 2019. Decrease in total number of internet subscriptions is attributed to large number of foreign worker leaving the country due to the Covid- 19 pandemic, large number of passive mobile cellular users, and also due to rapid decrease in the fixed broadband subscriptions. Technical issues while segregating the real time data is one other issue.

Meanwhile, over the past one year, the lease line subscriptions have increased by over 65.3 percent. Though active mobile broadband subscriptions decreased slightly over the past one year, Bhutan’s average of 92 mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in 2020 is better than the world average of 75 mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.