Connecting Bhutan

Many of you would have noticed that I was able to regularly update this blog during my recent visit to Sombaykha and Gakiling. And, that I was able to tweet about my experiences there. Romeo, a regular commentator, was sufficiently impressed to remark:

It is indeed incredible that you are connected through out your trek and able to keep us informed of your whereabouts and also update your informative blog. How is this possible? Are you carrying your laptop along and that you are connected through satellite to the internet? Hasn’t Bhutan progressed in terms of communication?

Yes, it is incredible that I could stay connected through most of the trip. After all, both Sombaykha and Gakiling are remote gewogs that can be reached only by undertaking an ardous journey on foot.

But no, I did not use a satellite service to connect me to the internet. That would have been expensive and cumbersome.

What I did use was B-mobile. You see, they had recently expanded their coverage to many parts my constituency, and wherever I could catch their signal, I could access the internet. This is possible because I have subscribed to B-mobile’s 3G services.

3G allows me to connect to the internet at a blistering speeds of up to 7.6 Mbps (but more likely 2 Mbps as the bandwith is shared among concurrent users). But 3G is currently available only in Thimphu. In other parts of the kingdom, the 3G subscriptions automatically downgrade to EDGE or, if that is not available, to GPRS. EDGE, which is available in all dzongkhag headquarters, allows speeds of up to 128 Kbps, and GPRS, available everywhere else, up to 54 Kbps depending on signal strength and hardware configuration.

All this means that I can now connect to the internet on my phone or, if I use a data card, on my laptop anywhere I am able to receive a B-mobile signal. That was basically how I blogged and tweeted through most parts of my constituency.

But that’s not all … Tashi Cell, Bhutan’s second cellular service provider, has also expanded to my constituency. And, I’m sure that they too provide mobile access to the internet. So, I actually had a choice!

Yes, Romeo, Bhutan has indeed progressed in terms of communication.

Tweeting

Real twitters

Real twitters

I’ve now been blogging for more than six months. And I’ve started receiving good feedback. During the weekdays we easily get four to five thousand hits. And, increasingly, many of the readers offer valuable comments. So, overall, I’m quite satisfied.

But to enhance my interaction with friends, especially those in Bhutan, I’ve also been on Facebook, a free social networking site, for a while now. Please join me here.

And to expand the blogging experience I’ve been experimenting with Twitter, also a free social networking site, but one that specializes in microblogging. Twitter users post updates, called “tweets”,which are entries less than 140 characters long, and which are available to their “followers”. To sign up and follow me, go here.

Now here’s the interesting part: if B-Mobile, say, were to allow Twitter to recognize their network, then users would be able to “tweet” using SMS’s, and “followers” would be able to receive updates as SMS’s. And that would be really handy.

Twikini_Theme_Windows

Twikini screenshot

I tweet on a smart phone, a Sony Ericsson Xi which runs on Windows Mobile 6.1. And I find it very convenient to post updates using Twikini, an application that allows you to use Twitter easily and quickly on your mobile phone. If you’re on 3G, I recommend Twikini to manage your Twitter account.

So why am I writing about Twitter, tweeting and Twikini? Because I wish to invite you to try out this very effective networking site that has taken most countries by storm. More importantly, I wish to inform you that I’ve decided to tweet regularly during the third National Assembly session.

Now for the birds, the real twitters pictured at the beginning of this post. These two birds have decided, very kindly, to roost outside our home in Taba. The picture shows the female bird carefully emerging from their nest (the horizontal member, made from bamboo, of my daughter’s swing) while her partner guards their territory.

The birds are Russet Sparrows. You’ve seen them. They’re plenty of them in Bhutan. But Yeshey Dorji, one of Bhutan’s foremost birders, tells me that they are very rare in other parts of the world.