Nepal Telecommunication Authority MIS reported that the internet in Nepal saw a surge of 4.4 million internet users in a year lasting from May 2018-May 2019. The internet users in Nepal stood at 14.3 million as of May 2018 which has skyrocketed since. The accessibility and affordability of internet services and mobile devices transcend by various broadband and mobile companies, there is a rapid growth of internet consumption in Nepal. However, internet growth wasn’t the same in the past.
The Dawn of Internet History in Nepal
The history of the internet in Nepal dates back to 1993. A venture of Mercantile Office Systems (MOS) and Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (RONAST) first introduced the internet to Nepal. IIT Bombay had an internet connection funded by UNDP through a project called ERNET. RONAST set up a system that enabled the scientific community in Nepal to transfer emails on a regular basis. The setup was managed by ERNET at IIT Bombay. However, the project ended soon because of the low-quality phone connection and high international call charges made out to IIT Bombay on a daily basis.
After RONAST parted its ways with ERNET project, Mercantile Office Systems leveraged the technology. MOS set up the first commercial email service In 1994 with a link to Australia. Most of the subscribers at this stage were large organizations.
In 1995, Nepal saw an establishment of the second internet company called Worldlink, one of the largest ISP in Nepal at present. Worldlink provided similar service as MOS at the time but at significantly cheaper rates routing the connection through Canada. MOS inclined mostly towards large enterprises while Worldlink took the opportunity and cashed on in with the individual clients as well.
Nepal for the first time witnessed a corporate rivalry on internet services. In response to tackle business competition, MOS added interactive Internet access which had a continual leased line to Australia. MOS eventually took further steps and acquired the right to administer Nepal specific domain .np. In response, Worldlink didn’t hold back and went on to offer its own internet access. At the end of the year, a third company, CAS Trading, ventured into the ISP market. However, it was again mostly the larger organizations that made themselves available for the Internet service.
E‐mail and Internet services remained expensive medium only used minimally by others apart from the large organizations until 1997. The advances were accounted for in communication and information technologies when His Majesty’s Government (HMG) (government of Nepal at the time) passed its first telecommunications act. At the time, all telecommunication was administered by HMG. The ISP’s at the time were not taken seriously and were ignored. They were taken as a mere telephone service provider. A licensing structure was created as per the new act for operations and ownership of all sorts of telecommunication services. As a result, VSAT licensing was now within their reach and the ISP’s were now compelled to apply for e-mail and internet services.
The private VSAT connections made internet services cheaper, and many started to subscribe mainly to the e‐mail services in rising numbers. Most of the early individual users were the Nepalese students abroad who had returned to Nepal and had a fair experience of using the service. However, internet service wasn’t a commodity as it was costly for the majority and the knowledge of its use was scarce.
Modern History of the Internet in Nepal
The use of the internet increased drastically since 1997. The 2000s decade saw a rise of internet culture in Nepal. Many opted for computer and electronics engineering and telecommunications education saw an uprise. The major influencer of the internet in the decade was the internet cafes. It started in the early 2000s from Kathmandu and by the end of the decade, the culture was across the country. The trend didn’t last for long though after its widespread throughout the country as the internet became affordable and accessible. Another major reason was the affordability of the mobile and computers along with the increasing digital literacy.
As reported by Nepal Telecommunications Authority, more than 250 new users connected to the internet every hour in 2019. This surge is a result of the mobile phone and 4G data boom along with the accessible and cheaper internet services from the ISPs.
The internet penetration in Nepal was 1% until 2006. Nepal witnessed rapid uprise of internet penetration from 9% in 2011 to 63% in 2017 as per the Nepal Telecommunication Authority report. However, there are other data which estimates that the penetration might have reached a higher percentage but was not uniform.