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NT's recharge billing system hits a snag

  • CIAA scanning Nepal Telecom's upgradation plan • NTA forms probe panel

RAMESH SHRESTHA

KATHMANDU: The need to upgrade Nepal Telecom’s balance top-up service could not be more evident than by the fact

that millions of its customers were unable to recharge their mobile balances over the weekend (starting Friday evening to Saturday afternoon). Officials claim the problem facing the system has reached a critical stage and needs to be upgraded at the earliest.

Admitting that NT’s balance recharge billing system, dubbed Voucher Management System (VOMS), needs upgradation, Madhu Sudan Karmacharya, spokesperson for NT, said, “We are holding discussion with the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority in this regard.”

CIAA is scanning NT’s upgradation plan after it received complaints about the project citing duplication of services.

After the weekend’s incident, telecom regulator — Nepal Telecommunications Authority — has also started its investigation by forming a task force.

“During our site visit, we found the balance recharge system of NT in a weak condition,” said Achyuta Nanda Mishra, assistant spokesperson for NTA and a member of the NTA’s investigation team.

The team had visited NT on Sunday for system inspection. As per Mishra, NT had received 4.1 million recharge requests from customers via interaction voice response but the system hardly managed to address 400,000 requests.

The NTA has asked the state-owned telecom utility to furnish clarification over the service obstruction and reason behind not updating the system.

There are also other modes of balance recharge, such as bank e-pin and web-based but customers are largely unaware about these services. On September 21 too NT’s balance recharge service had been down for an entire day.

On an average, NT witnesses balance recharge worth Rs 60 million per day. It is estimated that due to interruption on Friday and Saturday, the company faced loss of around Rs 40 million.

While a large number of customers faced inconveniences in the recent episodes, many NT mobile users complain of being unable to top up in a single attempt especially during odd hours. NT’s new project Convergent Real Time Billing System and Customer Support, which was supposed to work as an alternative to VOMS, has been found incompatible.

The CRTB&CS project is aimed at facilitating customers with one-window billing system for all services. Karmacharya said they had tried to migrate VOMS to CRTB&CS for balance recharge but faced problems and have felt the need to upgrade the existing system at the earliest.

Going by the NT’s procurement condition, CRTB&CS was supposed to integrate VOMS’ facilities.

But, the plan to upgrade the existing system has been put on hold as the CIAA is investigating the procurement issue.

The anti-graft body had intervened after a case was filed against NT’s preparation to upgrade the existing system despite having CRTB&CS as an alternative. NT officials said upgrading would cost Rs 10-20 million.

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