With a focus on mobile and fixed broadband connections, we will trace the development of the internet in Nepal from its earliest days of access to the most recent data as of 2022 in this instructive piece. But let’s start with the very beginning of the internet.
Everyone agrees that the internet was born on January 1, 1983, and that it had its beginnings during the cold war. ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was established by the US Defense Department to facilitate information sharing during the fierce proxy war. This was restricted to academic institutions having connections to the defense department. Other services, though, were developed for services of a similar nature.
The Defense Data Network and ARPANET switched to the TCP/IP communications standard in 1983, transforming into what is now known as the internet. It has undergone numerous alterations up to this point, but we will condense its entire history and focus on its history in Nepal. Here, we’ll provide a quick overview of Nepal’s internet history, including everything from early dial-up connections to ADSL, mobile broadband to fiber, and finally 5G. Go on reading.
Mercantile Brings Internet to Nepal
Mercantile marks the beginning of the internet’s history in Nepal. partnership with the Royal Academy of Science and Technology of Nepal. The system had a finite capacity and only permitted email communication. With a connection to Australia, Mercantile launched the service in 1994. Like before, it offered a fundamental email service. It used dial-up technology and went by the name Mercantile Office Systems (MOS). Online connections to the internet would enable message exchange.
The subscriptions were largely from international organizations, but the connection was pricey. The system itself was also of poor quality.
WorldLink Begins its Own
WorldLink, currently the biggest ISP in the nation, had a modest beginning. In 1995, the private ISP first offered its services. The business provided a comparable service, but for less money. However, unlike Mercantile, WorldLink provided its e-mail services to individual customers, which helped it draw customers over time. The .np domain was introduced by Mercantile to its offerings. WorldLink released its service at a lower price and followed in its footsteps. The two got into a furious argument.
These methods, however, utilized dial-up and phone lines. Its modem generated obnoxious noise and offered a pitiful 56 Kbps internet data speed. Another drawback was that the internet would stop working when a call was being made. These services were paid for by subscribers on a per-minute basis.
However, CAS Trading entered the Nepali Internet market as an additional ISP. However, the accessibility and scope of these young internet services were constrained. Most of the subscribers were large, wealthy international organizations. Internet was generally out of reach for the average person.
The First Telecommunications Act Passes
Under the then-monarch, Nepal’s first telecommunications statute was passed in 1997. This opened the door for more recent ISPs to introduce more modern services with a license that was more accommodating for private endeavors. Before this, email services over a phone line made up the internet. But as a result of the new licensing scheme, ISPs started using VSAT technology.
Technology reduced the cost of email services, which increased the number of subscribers. However, they were wealthy students who used the program to keep in touch with their pals who were studying overseas. The tendency had, however, already begun. Following that, more businesses started offering email and internet services.
Wireless and Cable Service Makes Internet More Popular
WorldLink upgraded to wireless internet service in the year 2003 AD, increasing the speed to 256 Kbps. Compared to the forgettable dial-up modem technology, it was a respectable advancement in both technology and performance.
Subisu introduced cable internet in Nepal for the first time in 2004–2005. These two distinct internet technologies created the groundwork for the internet’s explosive growth. The internet was evolving into service for consumers. Even though it was still only available to a select few, Internet was starting to dominate conversations among young people, and this couldn’t be ignored.
People who grew up in the 1990s might recall using chat and email services at cyber cafés. Back then, messaging apps like Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, hi5, etc. were quite popular since they gave young people a place to connect and speak online. These internet users may also communicate with their loved ones who lived abroad. However, the bandwidth speed fell short of expectations. It was still significant and was becoming known to the educated public.
The availability of wireless and cable internet, however, was limited to urban areas. As a result, folks living in rural locations were still unable to benefit from the amazing things the internet was able to do in urban areas.
However, Mahabir Pun’s valiant actions brought the internet to Nepal’s remote regions. After finishing his studies in the US, the Magasesy laureate returned to Nepal and started the Nepal Wireless Networking project in 2002 AD. His trailblazing work allowed the internet to spread to the mountainous regions. So far, his effort has installed almost 200 wireless internet services in about 20 underdeveloped regions of Nepal.
2011, The Watershed Year – From GPRS to The Launch of Fiber Internet
Now Mero Mobile Launched in 2005, Ncell. A new generation of young people who adored the concept of interacting through chat programs could now access the internet via GPRS on their feature phones. The two most common features on those vintage feature phones were Mig 33 and Nimbuzz. However, data bundles were not popular at the time, and mobile data was pricey.
NTC introduced a ground-breaking ADSL service in 2008. Compared to the limited number of private ISPs, this was less expensive and offered wider coverage nationwide. From there, internet culture grew exponentially. Cybercafés have become commonplace. They were the go-to destination for amusement for college students at the time who adored using dating apps or chit-chatting with random people.
The introduction of 3G mobile technology, wireless internet, and ADSL all transformed access to the internet in Nepal. The number of internet users suddenly experienced an unprecedented increase. According to NTA, only 1% of people have access to the internet overall in 2006. In 2011, this increased to 11%. Both fixed-line and mobile broadband were responsible for this, but 3G and ADSL internet had a larger role in the rise of the internet in the nation.
3G Arrives in Nepal
2011 saw the introduction of 3G for Nepali phone subscribers, making it a first for South Asia. It offered download speeds of up to 10 Mbps as opposed to ADSL’s sub-500 Kbps, which was a far more common option at the time. The expectations of the new internet space, which was advancing toward the HD standard, were met in part thanks to 3G. A faster internet connection was required to watch the increasingly popular video material without buffering. The most popular type of call was a video call, and 3G made this possible. They could now make phone calls, video chats with friends and family, and view YouTube without the irksome buffering. Web browsing got much more streamlined.
The upgraded 3.5G aka HSDPA, HSPA took the speed to 14 Mbps making mobile broadband more appealing for smartphone users.
WiMAX Arrived but Couldn’t Sustain
In the meantime, Ntc also introduced WiMAX in 2013 to provide superior residential internet service. It had a speed that was commendable for the time, reaching up to 512 Kbps and beyond. Although it had limited coverage, it was expensive to maintain with equipment. WiMAX also couldn’t compete with ADSL, which is the preferred option for residential internet services. Even if there are still 17–18 thousand users, they are being urged to switch to 4G.
Fiber Internet Launches
While Nepali internet was developing with ADSL and 3G, fiber optic internet, which was now widespread over the world, was still missing. Then, in 2014, fiber broadband was launched by Kathmandu-based private ISP Vianet. For both homes and businesses, it introduced a wide range of trustworthy fixed-line internet solutions. The nation’s internet market was in need of a leap into the next generation, and this provided it. More dependable, secure, and fast internet connectivity was made available in Nepal thanks to optical fiber. People using copper-based ADSL now had the choice to upgrade to highly regarded fiber broadband, however only in certain locations.
The ease of using fiber broadband made it simple to browse the internet, download files, play online games, and view videos. WiFi users may finally say goodbye to the annoying buffering on video apps like YouTube. Since then, internet subscriptions have skyrocketed every month as more ISPs join the fiber bandwagon.
There are currently 53 Internet Service Providers serving 19 lakh fiber internet subscribers. This represents around 30% of Nepal’s overall broadband-connected population.
4G Maintains Internet Evolution
Operators NTC+ and Ncell brought the first 4G service to Nepal in 2017 A.D. Next-generation mobile broadband made high-speed internet available to smartphone users, enabling them to enjoy an HD experience. They could now do audio-video calls, download big files, and stream videos. This was the purest form of mobile broadband, with significantly faster speeds than the 3G standard from the previous generation. Anyone could have won a show if they had 4G and a flagship 4G-capable phone. While 3G already allowed for video calls, 4G completely revolutionized mobile internet. Web material on mobile devices runs flawlessly and with minimal latency for interactive activities thanks to the optimal 4G speed of up to 100 Mbps.
For Nepali internet users, the decade of 2010 has been historic. WorldLink established itself as a well-known ISP. However, a lot of ISPs have started offering fiber broadband services. As far as the Everest Base Camp, NTC and Ncell both established and expanded their 3G and 4G services. The data also indicate a consistent increase in the percentage of people who subscribe to the internet over these years.
Internet Penetration in Nepal Through The Years
The internet had reached 14.5% of Nepal’s population as of January 2012. In January 2015, this spiked to 39.68%. Total internet penetration was 55.82% at the start of 2017.
The year 2021 saw the internet in Nepal experience yet another breakthrough following the revolutionary decade of the 2010s. This is due to the ongoing race for speed, which has reduced the internet’s formerly fixed bandwidth capacity to a maximum of 1 Gbps.
Mobile phone customers around the country are now using 4G. However, fiber broadband is still the standard for residential use, as it should be. However, internet users have long requested high-speed plans that were unobtrusive. Finally, CG Net launched a giant 120 Mbps (for its time, it was) service for just under Rs. 1,000, sending shockwaves through the ISPs. Instantaneously, the speed race began, and big ISPs were compelled to introduce their top-notch services.
In a matter of months, the typical 2-digit internet plans have become obsolete. Now, homeowners in Nepal can choose from a variety of 3-digit fiber broadband packages. As if that weren’t enough, Classic Tech just unveiled a revolutionary 1 Gbps plan.
With better dissemination across the nation, internet usage has increased to over 100% of the population. Both smartphones and internet access are getting less expensive. The current ICT practices in Nepal are being driven by the Digital Nepal Framework, which will increase the prominence of the internet in our daily lives.
Fixed-wired broadband currently makes up 30% of Nepal’s internet usage. With 89 percent and more than 119 percent of all broadband generation, mobile broadband is still in the lead. However, the digital divide is still present. There are still some “disconnected” regions. To guarantee that everyone in the nation has access to the internet equally, the government and service providers must step up their efforts. It is reasonable to assume that the upcoming 5G cellular standard will remedy this inequitable broadband availability by 2022.
This was a succinct summary of Nepal’s internet history. We made an effort to include significant and enduring occasions that broke past previous norms. Please feel free to make further suggestions in the comments section if you have any.