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Bhutan Table of Contents


Posts and Telecommunications

Mail and telecommunications services in 1991 were under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Communications's Department of Posts and the Department of Telecommunications, respectively. With a labor force of nearly 900 employees, the departments worked hard to modernize Bhutan's telecommunications and to provide links with other nations.

Although a courier system for internal official mail had been in existence for centuries, the modern postal system was introduced only in 1962. Prior to then, external mail was sent through Tibet or India. Bhutan's first postage stamps were issued in 1955 for internal use only. After the construction of modern roads post offices were built throughout the kingdom. Bhutan joined the Universal Postal Union, a specialized agency of the UN, in 1969. Thereafter, improvements were made in handling international mail and foreign parcels. By 1988 there were two general post, offices, fifty-five main post offices, and twenty-eight branch post offices.

The sale of commemorative postage stamps has been a foreignexchange earner for Bhutan since 1962, when the first internal- and external-use stamps were issued, with the help of a London printer, in rupee demoninations. Until tourism passed the sale of colorful stamps to foreign collectors as the major foreignexchange earner in 1974, the sale of postal stamps was the nation's principal source of foreign revenue. Sales averaged around US$44,000 a year in the 1970s, peaking at US$100,000 in 1979. In a related activity, Bhutan also issued commemorative gold and silver coins as a revenue generator.

As of 1991, Bhutan had more than 750 kilometers of telephone trunk lines, one digital telephone exchange in Thimphu and twelve analog exchanges in other area. The Department of Telecommunications planned to modernize all telephone exchanges and to connect all eighteen districts to the digital system by 1997. The telephone exchange in Thimphu by 1990 had a 10,000-line capability. As the 1990s began, there were nearly 2,000 telephones or one telephone for about every 700 people according to official information. Internationally, Thimphu was linked by a microwave system through Hashimara to satellite ground stations in Calcutta and New Delhi. The link, financed by India in 1984, provided sixty channels and had a potential for 300 channels when fully operational. Additionally, using a twenty-terminal French Sagem telex system, service between Thimphu and Phuntsholing was installed in 1986, and international service through New Delhi was connected in 1987; this facility was relocated to Calcutta in 1990. In 1989 the installation of a Japanese-equipped ground satellite station at Thimphu using International Telecommunications Satellite Corporation (Intelsat) circuits substantially enhanced international telephone service.

There were thirty-nine point-to-point high-frequency radio stations, including two installed in Bhutan's embassies in New Delhi and Dhaka in 1988 for internal administrative communications. There also were eight telegraph offices. The government-run Bhutan Broadcasting Service in Thimphu started with three hours of broadcasts per week in 1973 and had expanded to thirty hours per week by 1988. An FM station in Thimphu and shortwave receivers throughout the rest of the country received its daily programming in Dzongkha, English, Sharchopkha, and Nepali. Whereas there were only 7,000 radio receivers in Bhutan in 1980, by 1988 between 15,000 and 22,000 sets were reported. In 1991 a new broadcasting complex was opened in Thimphu under the auspices of the Department of Telecommunications. Built with Indian aid, the complex included a high-power fifty-kilowatt shortwave transmitter capable of covering all of Bhutan and neighboring areas. There was no domestic television, but there was a big demand for videos, especially in the larger towns.

Data as of September 1991