Thursday, September 24, 2015

Some experience from preliminary connectivity assesments

I have been currently given the responsibility of assessing Internet infrastructure in the project areas of Changunarayan and Panauti . Evaluation of mobile Internet connectivity is a part of my role as a technologist.  I noticed an interesting gossip about poor telecom service quality at Changunarayan – people believed the poor service quality of telecom was due to signal interference between towers of different network providers.  Some of the local residents were extremely furious against the installation of a tower by WorldLink, which is an Internet service provider but not a telecom operator. I could not flatly deny such interference, because though this should not happen theoretically, malfunctioning of the towers or improper parameter settings can still lead to such undesired effects.  I did not have any specific device to test signal interference.

Today I performed tests at Panauti. So far the results indicate service quality of Ncell is superior to that of Nepal Telecom, in both areas. At Changunarayan, signal quality of Ncell was poor. I came to know from the local people that there were no towers of Ncell at Changunaryan; the signal should have come from towers at  Sankhu and other nearby locations.  In contrast, there were about eight Nepal Telecom (NTC) towers, but services quality was embarrassing. Though  NTC’s signal strength was in an acceptable range, service access delays and call drops were high, and mobile internet connectivity was terribly poor. Surprisingly, quality of Internet provided by Ncell was still better than that of NTC. 

My experience shows wherever Ncell’s signal quality is better, its Internet service is better. This is not true with NTC. But the managing director of NTC claims 

"In the present competitive scenario, Nepal Telecom is the only service provider that has been providing rich and quality network services at affordable price throughout the country. " (

The claim appears as a joke. It is a serious question why NTC, a government owned company having a superb infrastructure, is not providing quality service.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Call for Abstracts: Seventh Annual Media Research Conference - 2016 - Kathmandu, Nepal

Media Research Conferences hope to augment critical and interdisciplinary discussions on various aspects of Nepali media. The sixth edition was jointly organized by Martin Chautari and Department of Languages and Mass Communication, Kathmandu University. Diffusion of new technologies has always been linked with development and considered instrumental for a global partnership. The seventh edition focuses on broadband Internet as one such technology for South Asia. The conference is an opportunity for researchers to come together and discuss the key issues we are facing today and provoke discussions, on the following theme.

The broadband Internet is at the core of several national digital initiatives in South Asia. The ambitious 'Digital India' programme, and the recent vision document for 'Digital Nepal', places the broadband Internet as a key to the social transformation with overarching growth and equality. There is, however, a need to assess these programmes in the light of ground realities of varied access and applications, uncertain future technologies and markets, unsatisfactory modes of governance. These factors will shape policy, regulatory and technology regime in the emerging economies of South Asia.We call for abstract of original research papers, case-studies, comparative analysis and review papers from academia, research and industry on the following topics, including but not limited to:

  • Digital divide and digital literacy
  • Digital economy
  • Media and digital literacy
  • Universal access
  • Universal service frameworks
  • Perspectives on ubiquitous Internet
  • Telecommunication infrastructure, partnership and regulation
  • Mobile broadband adoption and diffusion
  • National broadband policies
  • Spectrum management
  • Public-private partnerships in the broadband infrastructure

  • Competition and regulation in the broadband environment
  • Regulations for affordable pricing
  • Barriers to reform
  • National and international cyber security policies
  • State and Internet governance
  • Net neutrality
  • Political economy of institutions
  • Broadband for inclusive development
  • ICT in agriculture, health and education
  • Socio-economic impact of mobile broadband

Important Dates

September 2, 2015
Call for abstracts
November 20, 2015
Abstract submission deadline
November 30, 2015
Announcement of accepted submissions
February 14, 2016
Deadline for paper submission
February 25, 2016
Announcement of accepted papers
March 20, 2016
Conference opens

Limited funding support is available to cover travel and accommodation of the participants.
Abstract guidelines
  • Abstract can be in English or Nepali and should not contain more than 500 words.
  • The title of the proposed paper, a short description of the research base, and paper's main arguments/findings must be clearly stated.
  • A one-page short biography of the authors including their current contact details should follow in the abstract.
  • Document can be sent in Microsoft Word or PDF format only.
  • The receipt of your abstract submission will be acknowledged by an e-mail.
Abstract and queries should be sent to or by post to
Martin Chautari
P.O. Box 13470
27 Jeetjung Marg, Thapathali
Kathmandu, Nepal
Phone: (+977 1) 4102027/4238050/4240243

Article on Energy and ICT

[This post summarizes the arguments presented in the op-ed article by  Nischal Regmi and Shailesh Pandey appeared in the NagarikNews oped of September 8, 2015. Regmi and Pandey are researchers affiliated to Martin Chautari The article is in Nepali and can be found here].

The vision documents related to Nepali ICT/IT such as the proposed ICT policy and e-government master plan are critically short on discourses related to the energy infrastructure to support such a large-scale development. The reality of the proposed ideas can be attacked from various angles. We make two technological arguments on why Nepal is not prepared and might not be able to sustain the demands of a pervasive technology.

System Argument: The energy profile of the large scale ICT projects can change drastically based on what devices and units are excluded from the system boundary. If we are to take out personal computing devices, data centers and amplification and refrigeration units from the energy equation then the energy used by other components of ICT/Internet are very low. By excluding/hiding these components a hopeless plan can look realistic and sustainable. In 2013, the data centers in the USA consumed electricity that could power New York twice over. Similarly, including personal devices, servers and network devices the energy consumption can change by one or two orders of magnitude (i.e. from 10 to 100 times). The argument that efficiency derived from innovative applications of technology to industry does not work in case of Nepal. The industrial sector only consumes about 5.25% of total energy production. And, the increase in efficiency is being caught up by the demand, aka Jevons effect.

Technology Limits: There are fundamental limits to how fast the computation and communication technology can improve. The computers (chips) cannot get powerful and efficient indefinitely at a blinding pace we are accustomed to for the last two decades. Some say that the halt will come in effect as early as 2036. Similarly, the user demands are stretching the improvements (increased capacity) that an optical fiber can give. The industry will only take interest in the development of a new technology as long as it finds an investment in its return. This could effectively move the deadline even closer.