The Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) issued a 4G licence to Smart Telecom granting the operator approval to launch LTE service on its existing 1.8GHz network from 30 July, The Himalayan Times reported.

Smart Telecom, which has less than a 5 per cent market share, is the third mobile player in the country to receive a 4G licence from the regulator. The award is conditional, requiring the operator to pay all outstanding bills, including frequency, renewal and royalty fees to the government by the end of July, the newspaper stated.

State-owned Nepal Telecom in October 2016 was the first mobile player to receive approval from the regulator to deploy a 4G network on the 1.8GHz band. It launched the service in early 2017, and signed up nearly 600,000 LTE subscribers by end-March, according to GSMA Intelligence.

Axiata-backed Ncell was granted a 4G licence in early May clearing it for service from 1 June on its 900MHz and 1.8GHz networks.

The decision to grant Ncell a 4G licence is controversial because a parliamentary committee had directed the NTA not to grant the permit until the operator paid all taxes related Axiata’s acquisition of Telia’s stake in Ncell, which was finalised in April 2016.

Nepal’s regulator introduced a technology neutral frequency policy in 2016, allowing operators to provide any technology service (2G, 3G or 4G) on existing frequency brands.