With Bhutan taking major strides in mobile connectivity, Bhutan Telecom Limited (BTL) and Tashi InfoComm Limited (TashiCell) are confident that they will be able to introduce 5G network services by this year end.
5G is the 5th generation mobile network whereby; it delivers high data speeds, massive network capacity and provides higher performance and improved efficiency that is expected to be 10 times faster than 4G connectivity.
BTL is hopeful that they can launch 5G services within the year end in selected areas of Thimphu and Paro.
Further, TashiCell who is the first private cellular company in Bhutan plans to deploy 5G in Thimphu, Paro and Phuntsholing, and latest reports suggests that they have already completed the 5G trial in Thimphu.
Both companies plan to gradually extend their 5G services in other location and dzongkhags.
While some people in the capital and in Paro are excited about the launch of 5G in the country, people residing in other dzongkhags will have to wait for the 5G installation on a later date.
The primary objective of introducing 5G technology network is to meet the ever-growing demand for high speed mobile data connectivity and help in delivering the objective of digital drukyul flagship program while at the same time keeping up with the inevitable technological changes.
The other goal is to reduce network congestion on 4G, enable ultra-speed mobile service to the customers which will enable better efficiency and effectiveness while working online.
A student of the College of Science and Technology in Phuntsholing who is pursuing Bachelor of Engineering in Information and Technology said that through 5G there will be faster network and that the work done by every individual will be immediate and faster. She further adds that 5G will help in the ICT development and creation of job opportunities in the country.
However, many are of the view that 4G connection should be strengthened and then only the concerned authorities should move on with 5G.
General Manager of Marketing Department in TashiCell, Namgyel Wangchuk opines that 4G has limitation in terms of capacity and they are unable to resolve congestion.
“The way forward is to add new sites in those areas, however due to limited space available to construct tower, it is not possible to add more sites or tower in these areas, so the alternate option is to deploy 5G, which delivers ultra-high-speed internet,” he said.
On the flip side, Tandin Dorji working in one of the government organization feels that many Bhutanese have not upgraded to 5G-supported phones which he says would not be much of an advantage of setting 5G in the country as of now.
TashiCell have seen huge demand in high-speed internet in the country, with emphasis on working from home, online learning, and digitization of most services in Bhutan and further adds that 5G is the way to mitigate such actions. The private company is working with Samsung to import more 5G phones at affordable prices.
The Marketing General Manager of BTL, Jigme Thinley, highlights that they will enhance and expand their 4G services both in the urban centres and rural parts of the country while they expand the 5G services and he further notes, “4G technology is here to stay and will work hand in hand with 5G”.
Officials from TashiCell stated that the pandemic is delaying the deployment of workers and equipment. The upgradation of core network and billing system got delayed due to restrictions of bringing in experts. The estimated cost for the trial done by TashiCell amounted to around Nu 300- million.
Both the cellular connectivity operator has opted for Non-Standalone (NSA) version of 5G technology to begin with where it will be built on existing 4G infrastructure.
Meanwhile, BTL has partnered with Ericsson, a Swedish multinational networking and telecommunications company for both Core and Radio Access Networks (RAN) of the 5G infrastructure.
Currently, there are around 310, 000 TashiCell subscribers using 4G and 3G band in the country. Similarly, for BTL, 90 percent of the subscribers use 3G and 4G services.
Meanwhile, Bhutan Times tried to contact the Department of Information Technology and Telecom under the Ministry of Information and Communications in relation to 5G in the country. However, their office claimed that the officials were out of station.