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Bhutan - Telecoms, Mobile and Internet

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While mobile internet is booming in Bhutan overall mobile growth has started to slow In less than seven years Bhutan has moved from having no mobile phones to claiming more than 70% mobile penetration. Over this period the annual growth in mobile subscribers has reached in excess of 100%. Most significantly the mobile networks have provided a major boost to internet access in the country, largely on the back of EDGE/GPRS and 3G technology platforms. It was not always like this. Bhutan had been isolated from the rest of the world for a long time  both generally, and particularly in terms of its telecommunications. Its mountainous landscape made it especially difficult to build the necessary telecoms infrastructure. Back in 1974, Bhutan and India formally agreed to the introduction of trunk calls between the two countries. However, in a remarkable contrast with the rest of the world, it was not until 1999 that the country saw television stations, satellite dishes and internet services for the first time.

Between 1996 and 2001, Bhutan invested substantially in telecommunications infrastructure. The tiny country has quickly developed a modern, fully digital fixed-line network, which covered all 20 provinces and the key commercial and population centres. Despite this investment, however, it did experience significant network performance difficulties in the early stages.

For many years, the offering of mobile services had been considered uneconomical due to its small population, although Bhutan Telecom, the only telecom operator in the country at the time, had considered the Japanese Personal Handy Service (PHS) system as a possible mobile solution. In 2001, as an interim measure, Bhutan Telecom launched a GSM-based mobile satellite service in conjunction with Thuraya Satellite Co Ltd. This service was expected to fill the gap until a conventional national mobile network was established. Then, in 2003, the country's first mobile telephone service was launched. While initially established with relatively limited coverage (five towns including the capital Thimphu), the government was keen to see this service, operated by Bhutan Telecom and branded B-Mobile, providing national coverage by 2006.
In 2006, in what was a landmark step for the local telecom market, the regulator awarded a second national mobile licence to local industrial conglomerate, the Tashi Group, requiring a commercial service to be launched within one year. Tashi eventually began operating its mobile service in 2008.

Bhutan also came late to the internet. Development has continued down a slow path, as the country embraces online activity cautiously. In fact the internet penetration continues to be disconcertingly low for a country trying to lift itself up economically. Fixed internet subscriber penetration was still below 3% in 2013; however, this was compensated by a new booming mobile internet/broadband market.

Note: there are some conflicting statistics published for the Bhutan market; BuddeComm has applied estimates where this problem is encountered.

Key Developments:

  • Bhutan's telecom sector continues to develop Initially driven by positive growth in its mobile market, this has shifted to growth in internet access in its various forms.
  • The number of mobile subscribers grew strongly for four or five years but growth eased considerably over the last few years
  • The launch of a second mobile operator in 2008 made the market a competitive one, the competition no doubt helping boost the overall growth rate. With the success of the mobile network, fixed-line subscriber numbers have eased downwards over the last few years
  • B-Mobile launched a 4G/LTE service in the capital Thimphu in late 2013
  • Fixed internet penetration continues to be disconcertingly low with fixed subscriber penetration still below 4% in 2014
  • However, this was compensated by a new booming mobile internet/broadband market with a penetration of around 30%
  • The country has been moving steadily towards a democratic system of government with elections being held in 2008
  • The hope was that this would start to bring significant structural reform to all sectors of the economy
  • Although the telecom regulator has been operating in a progressive fashion since being set up in 2007, the telecom sector remains in need of further reform.

Bhutan  key telecom parameters  2012 - 2014

  Category

2012  

2013  

2014 (e)  

  FIXED-LINE SERVICES:

  Total number of subscribers

27,000  

26,500  

26,000  

  INTERNET:

  Total number of fixed internet subscribers

17,100  

20,100  

23,000  

  MOBILE SERVICES:

  Total number of subscribers

        560,900  

         544,300  

530,000  

READ MORE

Table Of Content

Scope

1.  Executive summary
2.  Key statistics
3.  Country overview
3.1 Background
3.2 Economy
4.  Telecommunications market
4.1 Overview of Bhutan's telecom market
5.  Regulatory environment
5.1 Bhutan Telecommunications Act 1999
5.2 Bhutan Information Communications and Media (BICM) Act 2006
5.3 Licensing
6.  Fixed network operator in Bhutan
6.1 Bhutan Telecom
7.  Telecommunications infrastructure
7.1 National telecom network
7.1.1  Overview
7.1.2  Fixed-line statistics
7.1.3  Universal Service Fund (USF)
7.1.4  Rural communications programs
7.1.5  Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs)
7.1.6  E-Shabtog
7.1.7  National optical fibre network
7.1.8  Remote communities
7.2 International infrastructure
8.  Internet market
8.1 Overview
8.1.1  Internet and broadband statistics
8.1.2  Government online
8.2 ISP market
8.2.1  DrukNet
8.2.2  Samden Tech
9.  Mobile communications
9.1 Overview of Bhutan's mobile market
9.1.1  Mobile statistics
9.2 Regulatory issues
9.2.1  Second mobile licence
9.3 Major mobile operators
9.3.1  B-Mobile
9.3.2  Tashi InfoComm
9.4 3G mobile services
9.5 4G / LTE mobile services
10.  Related reports

 


List Of Figure

Chart 1 - Fixed lines in service and teledensity - 2000-2014
Chart 2 - Internet users and penetration rate - 2000-2014
Chart 3 - Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration - 2005-2014
Chart 4 - Market share by operator  2013
Exhibit 1  Level of competition by market segment
Exhibit 2  Licences issued by service category  2013
Exhibit 3  List of licensed ISPs  2013

 


List Of Table

Table  1  Country statistics Bhutan  2014
Table  2  Telecom revenue and investment statistics  2012
Table  3  Telephone network statistics  2013
Table  4  Internet user statistics  2013
Table  5  Broadband statistics  2013
Table  6  Mobile statistics  2013
Table  7  National telecommunications authorities
Table  8  Bhutan's GDP real growth rate  2006 - 2015
Table  9  Fixed lines in service and teledensity  1995 - 2014
Table  10  Internet users and penetration rate  1999 - 2014
Table  11  Fixed internet subscribers  2003 - 2013
Table  12  Total internet subscribers  2003 - 2013
Table  13  Dial-up internet subscribers  2001  2008; 2010 - 2013
Table  14  Fixed broadband internet subscribers  2008 - 2014
Table  15  DSL broadband internet subscribers  2008 - 2013
Table  16  Internet subscribers by type of access  2008; 2011 - 2013
Table  17  Mobile broadband subscribers  2009 - 2014
Table  18  International internet bandwidth  2000 - 2013
Table  19  Percentage of households with a computer  2002 - 2014
Table  20  Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration  2003 - 2014
Table  21  Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change  2013
Table  22  Total mobile subscribers and market share by operator  2013
Table  23  B-Mobile's subscribers  2003 - 2013
Table  24  Tashi's mobile subscribers  2010 - 2012
Table  25  B-Mobile's 3G subscribers  2008 - 2013

 

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Products and Companies

Products

Fixed-line, Broadband, Mobile Broadband, Fiber to the home, Telecommunications infrastructure, Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs), Long-term Evolution (LTE), Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution (EDGE), Mobile TV, Fixed Line Subscribers, MVNO, Number Portability, High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA), Mobile content and applications, Broadband access, Regulatory Authority, Mobile infrastructure, Satellite mobile, Fixed wireless (WiMAX, WiBro, Wi-Fi), Satellite Broadband, VOIP, Video Streaming


Companies

Tashi InfoComm, Samden Tech, DrukNet, E-Shabtog

Company Profile

Company Profile Title

While mobile internet is booming in Bhutan overall mobile growth has started to slow In less than seven years Bhutan has moved from having no mobile phones to claiming more than 70% mobile penetration. Over this period the annual growth in mobile subscribers has reached in excess of 100%. Most significantly the mobile networks have provided a major boost to internet access in the country, largely on the back of EDGE/GPRS and 3G technology platforms. It was not always like this. Bhutan had been isolated from the rest of the world for a long time  both generally, and particularly in terms of its telecommunications. Its mountainous landscape made it especially difficult to build the necessary telecoms infrastructure. Back in 1974, Bhutan and India formally agreed to the introduction of trunk calls between the two countries. However, in a remarkable contrast with the rest of the world, it was not until 1999 that the country saw television stations, satellite dishes and internet services for the first time.

Between 1996 and 2001, Bhutan invested substantially in telecommunications infrastructure. The tiny country has quickly developed a modern, fully digital fixed-line network, which covered all 20 provinces and the key commercial and population centres. Despite this investment, however, it did experience significant network performance difficulties in the early stages.

For many years, the offering of mobile services had been considered uneconomical due to its small population, although Bhutan Telecom, the only telecom operator in the country at the time, had considered the Japanese Personal Handy Service (PHS) system as a possible mobile solution. In 2001, as an interim measure, Bhutan Telecom launched a GSM-based mobile satellite service in conjunction with Thuraya Satellite Co Ltd. This service was expected to fill the gap until a conventional national mobile network was established. Then, in 2003, the country's first mobile telephone service was launched. While initially established with relatively limited coverage (five towns including the capital Thimphu), the government was keen to see this service, operated by Bhutan Telecom and branded B-Mobile, providing national coverage by 2006.
In 2006, in what was a landmark step for the local telecom market, the regulator awarded a second national mobile licence to local industrial conglomerate, the Tashi Group, requiring a commercial service to be launched within one year. Tashi eventually began operating its mobile service in 2008.

Bhutan also came late to the internet. Development has continued down a slow path, as the country embraces online activity cautiously. In fact the internet penetration continues to be disconcertingly low for a country trying to lift itself up economically. Fixed internet subscriber penetration was still below 3% in 2013; however, this was compensated by a new booming mobile internet/broadband market.

Note: there are some conflicting statistics published for the Bhutan market; BuddeComm has applied estimates where this problem is encountered.

Key Developments:

  • Bhutan's telecom sector continues to develop Initially driven by positive growth in its mobile market, this has shifted to growth in internet access in its various forms.
  • The number of mobile subscribers grew strongly for four or five years but growth eased considerably over the last few years
  • The launch of a second mobile operator in 2008 made the market a competitive one, the competition no doubt helping boost the overall growth rate. With the success of the mobile network, fixed-line subscriber numbers have eased downwards over the last few years
  • B-Mobile launched a 4G/LTE service in the capital Thimphu in late 2013
  • Fixed internet penetration continues to be disconcertingly low with fixed subscriber penetration still below 4% in 2014
  • However, this was compensated by a new booming mobile internet/broadband market with a penetration of around 30%
  • The country has been moving steadily towards a democratic system of government with elections being held in 2008
  • The hope was that this would start to bring significant structural reform to all sectors of the economy
  • Although the telecom regulator has been operating in a progressive fashion since being set up in 2007, the telecom sector remains in need of further reform.

Bhutan  key telecom parameters  2012 - 2014

  Category

2012  

2013  

2014 (e)  

  FIXED-LINE SERVICES:

  Total number of subscribers

27,000  

26,500  

26,000  

  INTERNET:

  Total number of fixed internet subscribers

17,100  

20,100  

23,000  

  MOBILE SERVICES:

  Total number of subscribers

        560,900  

         544,300  

530,000  

READ MORE

Scope

1.  Executive summary
2.  Key statistics
3.  Country overview
3.1 Background
3.2 Economy
4.  Telecommunications market
4.1 Overview of Bhutan's telecom market
5.  Regulatory environment
5.1 Bhutan Telecommunications Act 1999
5.2 Bhutan Information Communications and Media (BICM) Act 2006
5.3 Licensing
6.  Fixed network operator in Bhutan
6.1 Bhutan Telecom
7.  Telecommunications infrastructure
7.1 National telecom network
7.1.1  Overview
7.1.2  Fixed-line statistics
7.1.3  Universal Service Fund (USF)
7.1.4  Rural communications programs
7.1.5  Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs)
7.1.6  E-Shabtog
7.1.7  National optical fibre network
7.1.8  Remote communities
7.2 International infrastructure
8.  Internet market
8.1 Overview
8.1.1  Internet and broadband statistics
8.1.2  Government online
8.2 ISP market
8.2.1  DrukNet
8.2.2  Samden Tech
9.  Mobile communications
9.1 Overview of Bhutan's mobile market
9.1.1  Mobile statistics
9.2 Regulatory issues
9.2.1  Second mobile licence
9.3 Major mobile operators
9.3.1  B-Mobile
9.3.2  Tashi InfoComm
9.4 3G mobile services
9.5 4G / LTE mobile services
10.  Related reports

 


List Of Figure

Chart 1 - Fixed lines in service and teledensity - 2000-2014
Chart 2 - Internet users and penetration rate - 2000-2014
Chart 3 - Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration - 2005-2014
Chart 4 - Market share by operator  2013
Exhibit 1  Level of competition by market segment
Exhibit 2  Licences issued by service category  2013
Exhibit 3  List of licensed ISPs  2013

 


List Of Table

Table  1  Country statistics Bhutan  2014
Table  2  Telecom revenue and investment statistics  2012
Table  3  Telephone network statistics  2013
Table  4  Internet user statistics  2013
Table  5  Broadband statistics  2013
Table  6  Mobile statistics  2013
Table  7  National telecommunications authorities
Table  8  Bhutan's GDP real growth rate  2006 - 2015
Table  9  Fixed lines in service and teledensity  1995 - 2014
Table  10  Internet users and penetration rate  1999 - 2014
Table  11  Fixed internet subscribers  2003 - 2013
Table  12  Total internet subscribers  2003 - 2013
Table  13  Dial-up internet subscribers  2001  2008; 2010 - 2013
Table  14  Fixed broadband internet subscribers  2008 - 2014
Table  15  DSL broadband internet subscribers  2008 - 2013
Table  16  Internet subscribers by type of access  2008; 2011 - 2013
Table  17  Mobile broadband subscribers  2009 - 2014
Table  18  International internet bandwidth  2000 - 2013
Table  19  Percentage of households with a computer  2002 - 2014
Table  20  Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration  2003 - 2014
Table  21  Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change  2013
Table  22  Total mobile subscribers and market share by operator  2013
Table  23  B-Mobile's subscribers  2003 - 2013
Table  24  Tashi's mobile subscribers  2010 - 2012
Table  25  B-Mobile's 3G subscribers  2008 - 2013

 

• Single User Licences (for access by one person),
• 10 User Licences (for access for up to 10 Users),
• 20 User Licences (for access for up to 20 Users), and
• Site Licences (allow access by all staff within the country of purchase).

To know more information on Purchase by Section, please send a mail to support@kenresearch.com

INQUIRE FOR COVID-19 IMPACT ANALYSIS

Products

Fixed-line, Broadband, Mobile Broadband, Fiber to the home, Telecommunications infrastructure, Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs), Long-term Evolution (LTE), Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution (EDGE), Mobile TV, Fixed Line Subscribers, MVNO, Number Portability, High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA), Mobile content and applications, Broadband access, Regulatory Authority, Mobile infrastructure, Satellite mobile, Fixed wireless (WiMAX, WiBro, Wi-Fi), Satellite Broadband, VOIP, Video Streaming


Companies

Tashi InfoComm, Samden Tech, DrukNet, E-Shabtog