NTC, Ncell, and Smart fail NTA’s mobile service quality test in Kathmandu

NTA Drive Test February 2023 Report Kathmandu NTC Ncell Smart Nepal Telecom
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According to NTA’s latest drive test report of Kathmandu which was conducted from February 3 – February 7, 2023 (Magh 20 – Magh 24), Nepal’s all three telecom operators were found to have poor mobile service quality. Let’s know more about the reality of the mobile service standard in Kathmandu.

NTA Drive Test Overview:

What is a drive test?

Before moving forward, let’s first understand what a drive test is. This is a method of testing the quality of mobile networks in an area by mounting testing equipment on a moving vehicle. The vehicle navigates through the area by making repeated voice or data calls. Under this, every service provider’s service in the range is tested at the same time.

The tools are set up in such a way that a suitable network (4G / 3G / 2G) is automatically selected for each service provider based on availability. Here, NTA used the “JDSU E6474A” test tool and the “Gladiator” post-processing tool.

JDSU E6474A drive test tool
JDSU E6474A (Image: eBay)

In case you didn’t know, Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) oversees all companies in the telecommunication sector in Nepal, including network service providers, phone importers and sellers, and so on.

Test locations and duration

NTA conducted the drive test in 15 different places in Kathmandu. This includes Gwarko, Koteshwor, Old Sinamangal, Bouddha-Naya Basti, Chabahil, Gaushala, Sifal, Maitidevi, Haadigaun, Kapan, Dhumbarahi, Barphedi, Bhangal, Hathigauda, Budhanilkantha and roads covering those areas.

NTA Drive Test Areas and Results
NTC call response in drive test areas (Image: NTA)

Similarly, it performed 120-second calls inside the same network of service providers for this test. Meaning NTC to NTC, Ncell to Ncell, and Smart to Smart.

What was the end result?

According to NTA’s regulations, the call setup success rate (CSSR)—which is the number of successful calls in 100 calls—should be equal to or more than 99.99%. But the CSSR of NTC, Ncell, and Smart was just 88.78%, 93.69%, and 26.39%, respectively.

Furthermore, NTA says the call setup time (CST)—which is the waiting time until the call is connected—should be less than or equal to 5 seconds. But the CST of NTC, Ncell, and Smart in the aforementioned test areas of Kathmandu turned out to be 6.97, 5.18, and 11.93 seconds, respectively.

Lastly, the call block rate (CBR) should be less than or equal to 2%, according to NTA. This metric determines the rate of calls rejected by the network. And here as well, all three telcos performed poorly. With NTC, Ncell, and Smart scoring 11.21%, 6.3%, and 73.60%, respectively.

The only parameter where every telecom operator showed positive results was in terms of call drop rate (CDR)—i.e. call automatically hung up in the middle of the conversation. According to the report, all three telcos’ CDR was 0%, while NTA has set the acceptable threshold for CDR to ≤2%.

Drive Test Date February 3 – 7 (2023)
Drive Test Area Gwarko, Koteshwor, Purano Sinamangal, Bouddha-Naya Basti, Chabahil, Gaushala, Sifal, Handi Gaun, Kapan, Dhumbarahi, Barfedi, Bhangal, Hattigauda, Budhanilkantha
Telecom Service Provider NTC Ncell Smart
Key figures NTA threshold
Call Setup Success Rate ≥99.99% 88.78 93.69 26.39
Call Setup Time ≤5 seconds 6.97 5.18 11.93
Call Block Rate ≤2% 11.21 6.3 73.6
Call Drop Rate ≤2% 0 0 0

NTA Drive Test Conclusion:

Based on the report, NTA has instructed all the telecom operators to improve the quality of their network to meet the standards set by the Telecommunication Service Quality Regulations 2073. Seeing how even the country’s capital has such poor mobile service quality, you can easily imagine how things are in Nepal’s rural areas where the telecom operators haven’t set up as strong network infrastructure.