Bhutan had been isolated from the rest of the world for a long time, both generally, and particularly in terms of its telecommunications. Its mountainous landscape made it especially difficult to build the necessary telecoms infrastructure. Urban towns and district headquarters have now access to most telecommunications services, but quality is poor, especially in rural areas.
The Internet penetration rate was of 51% by the end of 2018. The mobile networks have provided a major boost to internet access in the country, largely on the back of EDGE/GPRS, 3G and more recently 4G platforms. 4G LTE networks are now gaining traction with both major mobile operators offering 4G services.
The number of fixed telephone lines in Bhutan has been declining for several years from a very small base as the mobile segment continues to expand. Fixed-line penetration is predicted to drop further in the future whereas the mobile market keeps growing strongly, although it has lately subsided as it begins to mature. The mobile networks have provided a major boost to internet access in the country, with 4G platforms now gaining traction in Bhutan with both major mobile operators offering 4G services. 4G/WiMAX networks now cover well over half of the country. Fixed broadband penetration continues to grow, although also coming from a very small base. Over the next years to 2024, low to moderate growth is expected.
Bhutan’s small economy is based largely on hydropower, agriculture, and forestry, which provide the main livelihood for more than half of the population. Because rugged mountains dominate the terrain and make the building of roads and other infrastructure difficult and expensive, industrial production is primarily of the cottage industry type. The economy is closely aligned with India’s through strong trade and monetary links and is dependent on India for financial assistance and migrant laborers for development projects, especially for road construction. Bhutan also signed a memorandum of understanding with Bangladesh and India in July 2017 to jointly construct a new hydropower plant for exporting electricity to Bangladesh.
Bhutan Telecom is the main telecommunications and Internet services provider in the Kingdom of Bhutan. It is the sole fixed line telephony provider in the country. It also operates the B-Mobile mobile service and the DrukNet Internet service. It was established in 2000.
(None reported as of January, 2018)