ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Friday, February 24, 2012

3G: From Theory to Practice

About a year ago we wrote about the importance of a wide-coverage 3G network. Apparently, things are starting to change. According to recent news articles (KuenselBhutan Today) coverage is about to increase, starting with Paro, Gelephu and Phuentsholing.

In an attempt to explain 3G to the public, Kuensel's February 20, 2012 "My Say" corner featured an article by Tshewang Yeshey from B-Mobile, trying to "provide a little insight on the subject" of 3G. Tshewang writes:
"3G speed is remarkably so high that you can download a whopping 500 page Word document in a blink of an eye or... an average size DVD movie within a minute or two"
First, a small technical correction. You cannot download an average size DVD movie in a minute or two. The bit-rate of a video DVDs runs around 8Mbps (mega-bits-per-second), which is faster than the maximum theoretical 3G speed of 7.2Mbps. It would take hours (even in Bhutanese time) to download such a file.

But more importantly: 3G is indeed much faster than 2G, and in theory should support video calls via Skype and similar services. It also has the important advantage of supporting voice and data simultaneously (with 2G, if you use data, you cannot use voice and vice versa).

However, the current 3G reality in Bhutan is not that rosy. First, 3G is currently only available in some locations in Thimphu. Second, even in Thimphu, the actual speed is much slower than eye-blink downloads, reasonable movie streaming or video calls. Although coverage is about to change, we are still worried about the speed. As long as the international capacity of Bhutan will not meet up with demand, the theoretical 3G speed will not manifest in practice.