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B-Mobile in Bhutan
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All district headquarters connected
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With Gasa connected to the cellular service end of February 2007, Bhutan Telecom's B-Mobile has connected ...
... the district headquarters of all the 20 dzongkhags,
... roughly 60 percent of the country's geography and ...
... services available to about 80 percent of the population.

Besides dzongkhag headquarters, the service was also available in satellite towns and some portions of the national highway.

According to B-Mobile officials connectivity will be available throughout the entire country, along the highways and even remotest gewogs.

Started in 2003 with connectivity in Thimphu, Paro and Chukha dzongkhags and with 4383 subscribers, B-Mobile today had installed 48 base transceiver stations in all the districts covering 103 gewogs, and with 85,659 subscribers as of this month.

According to operations and B-Mobile division's general manager Tandi Wangchuk, the service had generated a revenue of about Nu. 450 million last year.

Ironically B-Mobile's teething problems had been an exponential increase in the customer base resulting in network congestion or cellular clogging particularly in the larger urban centres. This too had been taken care of when on Monday the 'base station controller' (BSC) was expanded and upgraded.

From the initial 72,000 BHCA (busy hour call attempts) it was increased to 150,000, an increase by 100 percent according to a press release from B-Mobile.

Tandi Wangchuk told Kuensel that cellular clogging should not be a problem anymore and besides the service provider would also deploy 'cellular-on-wheels', a temporary station on vehicles to cater to temporary congestions, which occurred during public gatherings.

While connecting the unconnected would be carried out phase-wise in next few years B-Mobile would now also focus on value added services, according to Tandi Wangchuk.

Migrating prepaid subscribers to a more sophisticated intelligent network platform which was done recently was one. Others soon to be introduced includes e-top-up where charging a phone would not require a standard voucher. The dealers would charge it immediately, without any paper, and to any amount as preferred by the customers.

Within this year customers would be able to send emails and browse the net while interactive voice response, which today was on English only, would also be available in Dzongkha.

The network would also be upgraded to GPRS/EDGE (general packet radio services/enhanced data rate for GSM evolution) by the end of this year. This would allow data delivery over cell phones facilitating growth of content for both commercial and entertainment purposes.

With PP or peer-to peer facility a customer could also transfer the balance from one phone to another.

Among others, low value vouchers, like the Nu. 50 vouchers, would again be made available as it had high demand.

B-Mobile had international roaming agreements with over 90 mobile operators in 32 countries. Customers expect the services to get even better when the Tashi Group launches their cellular service some time towards the end of this year.

"We are not really worried about competition because we have had a good start," said Tandi Wangchuk. Service charges on all services provided by Bhutan Telecom -mobile, fixed phones and internet - is to be revised beginning April this year.

This article was contributed by Bishal Rai, Kuensel, Bhutan's National Newspaper 2007

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