Print Edition - 2015-01-12 | MONEY
UTL fails to abide by regulator’s directive
- Services remain disrupted at several places in Eastern and Western regions; management, workers trade barbs
Jan 11, 2015-
United Telecom Limited (UTL) has failed to abide by the directive of Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) to resume its services that have been disrupted for the last four days. As per the telecom licence condition, an operator cannot leave services halted for more than 24 hours.
Two days ago, the regulator had directed UTL to restart its services that have remained disrupted in most of the places in Eastern and Western parts of country. As per the Telecom Act, the NTA can slap up to Rs 500,000 penalty on an operator for the failure to abide by its directives.
Until Sunday evening, UTL has not been able to ascertain the actual cause for the service disruption, with the management and employees blaming each others. However, both the sides say the problem is due to a “minor technical glitch” that can be solved within a couple of hours.
The management has accused the agitating employees of not repairing the damages to the optical fibre network “intentionally”, while the employees say the management itself “tampered” with the cables in such a way that they could not fix the damages.
One of the UTL employees, seeking anonymity, told the Post if the company really wanted to solve the issue and thought the employees were causing the problems, it could have simply outsourced technicians. “But they (the management) want the situation to prolong,” he said.
“We are cooperating fully from our side,” said Bikash Kumar Jha, president of the UTL chapter of the All Nepal Workers Union for Organisations and Financial Institutions.
Repeated attempts by the Post to contact UTL management representatives were unsuccessful.
As UTL consumers continue to suffer, the regulator too has failed to act. UTL has more than 500,000 customers across the country, according to NTA stats.
NTA Chairman Digambar Jha said it was studying the case and would act after completing the study. “We will penalise UTL legally if the study finds it guilty,” Jha said.
The union launched its agitation putting forward a 14-point demands on July 3, 2014. Subsequently on September 30, 2014, the UTL management filed an application at Ministry of Labour and Employment, seeking to lay off 60 percent of the employees. “As per the employees-to-customer base ratio, the number of employees should be reduced by 60 percent,” the application obtained by the Post reads. The application states the decision has been endorsed by the UTL board. It also stated the company incurred a loss of Rs 690 million in 2013-14.
However, on October 9, 2014, the company sent a letter to the Department of Industry, seeking permission to add 20 administrative and 40 technical staffers, and adding investment. “On one hand, the company says it has been incurring heavy losses, and on the other, it is seeking permission to add capital and increase the number of staffers,” one of the UTL engineers said. “The letters suggest the management is seeking to remove the employees without any specific reason.”
Three Indian companies—Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) India, Telecom Consultants India Limited and Tata Communications—jointly hold 80 percent stake in the company. India’s The Economic Times online recently reported these companies were unwilling to make further investment in UTL. The portal, citing a top-level MTNL source, had said the investment in the company might increase through Nepal Ventures, a Nepal-based investor in UTL.
“We had inquired about the UTL shareholding structure with the Office of Company Registrar recently, but no change was reported,” NTA sources said.
NTA to set deadline for licence
KATHMANDU: Nepal Telecomm-unications Authority (NTA) plans to put in place a deadline for UTL to acquire the unified license. NTA, some 20 months ago, had decided to issue the licence, but the company seems reluctant to acquire the permit. The issue was discussed at an NTA board meeting on Sunday. “Our next meeting might take a decision on the issue,” NTA sources said. “There is no use of issuing license to those who are reluctant to start the service.” (PR)
Published: 12-01-2015 09:39