China provides faster, cheaper internet to Nepal
Global Times

Nepalese women from Kirat community with traditional costume and ornaments celebrate Udhauli festival in Kathmandu, Nepal, December 9, 2017. Udhauli is the annual festival celebrated by Kirat community of eastern Nepal marking the migration of animals and birds to low altitude towards warmer regions as the winter coming.Photo:Xinhua

A Chinese fiber optic link has started providing Nepal with faster and cheaper internet service, ending India's decades-long monopoly of the Himalayan nation's cyber connectivity network.

Wang Yonglin, chief South Asia representative of China Telecom Global, told the Global Times that test results show the new fiber optic link can shorten the time delay from Kathmandu to Hong Kong to 73 milliseconds, which is 50 milliseconds faster than using the bandwidth from India.

Wang said the 82-kilometer fiber optic link laid over mountainous terrain increases the diversity and security of Nepal's internet, and likely provides lower internet service fees for Nepalese residents.

Nepal Telecom and China Telecom Global on Friday launched their services after they completed laying fiber optic cables between Gyirong in China and Rasuwagadi in Nepal, about 50 kilometers north of Kathmandu.

More than 100 people, including Nepal's Minister of Information and Communications Mohan Bahadur Basnet and Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong, attended Friday's launch ceremony.

Ambassador Yu told the Global Times that the opening of the China-Nepal fiber optic link will improve connectivity between the people of his country and Nepal, significantly boosting bilateral trade and providing a successful sample of a co-construction project between China and Nepal under the Belt and Road initiative.

Nepal joined China's Belt and Road initiative in 2017.

For years, the Himalayan country was solely dependent on Indian telecom companies, such as Bharti Airtel and Tata Communications Ltd, for access to the worldwide web, which Nepali officials said made connections vulnerable to network failures, Reuters reported.

Local Nepalese internet engineers have complained about unstable internet access and the high cost of India's cyber connectivity network, the Global Times has learned.

The engineers are expecting the new fiber optic link to make Nepal a data transferring hub between China and India, boost Nepal's internet economy and help drive the country's economic growth.

"With Chinese enterprises entering Nepal's market, Nepal can now buy internet service from China, forming a competitive environment," a mobile phone shop owner in Kathmandu told the Global Times.

According to Wang, China Telecom Global signed the agreement with three Nepalese telecom operators in 2013 to build a fiber optic link. Construction started in April 2014 but was delayed three times by snowstorms in 2014, a magnitude-8.1 mega earthquake in Nepal in 2015 and mudslides in 2016.

China Telecom Global also signed agreements with Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to build fiber optic links as part of its Silk Road project that aims to extend China's cyber connectivity network to Central, South and West Asia, according to the company's website.

Not zero-sum game

More than 60 percent of Nepal's 28 million people had access to the internet last year, up from just 19 percent in 2012.

The opening of the Chinese fiber optic link was widely reported by Indian media, as New Delhi looks warily at Beijing's growing influence in Nepal.

In 2016, China agreed to allow Nepal to use its ports to trade goods with third countries. The two countries also agreed to build a cross-border railway.

"As a small country sandwiched between China and India, Nepal has the right to cooperate with countries that best suit its national interests. China respects India's unique influence in South Asia and is not aiming to compete for influence in the region. India should change its mindset of a zero-sum game," said Qian Feng, a researcher at the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies and a senior fellow of Tsinghua University's National Strategy Institute.