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ISLAMABAD: The Universal Service Fund (USF) Board approved 09 projects worth around Rs8.15 billion to provide high speed mobile broadband services to around 7.59 million people in unserved and under-served areas of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

Advised by the Federal Minister for Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunication, Syed Amin Ul Haque, the USF Board approved award of Next Generation Broadband for Sustainable Development contracts to Jazz, Telenor and Ufone and Optic Fiber Cable contracts to Nayatel and PTCL.

The Board also approved the launch of a new programme called the ‘Next Generation Broadband for Sustainable Development Programme for Tourist Locations’ to promote tourism in the country. The Federal Secretary for Ministry of IT and Telecommunication & Chairman of USF Board, Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui chaired the 76th Board of Directors meeting of USF on Friday.

Federal Secretary for IT and Telecommunication and Chairman of USF Board, Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui said “Digital Pakistan Vision” can see fruition only if every citizen of the country has access to mobile technology and internet services. In this regard, Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication, Syed Amin Ul Haque has issued clear instructions that development projects need to be initiated and executed in all remote and economically marginalized areas. The Federal Minister has expressed his satisfaction with USF’s performance whereby USF has in the current 31 months cumulatively presented Rs30 billion worth of projects.

These projects include unserved and underserved areas in the Ex-FATA region, Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

The Federal Secretary also added that as advised by the Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication, Syed Amin Ul Haque, the Board has approved special projects on an urgent basis for the provision of high speed mobile broadband services in tourist areas. The completion of these projects is not only aligned with the Prime Minister’s vision on promoting tourism but also provide these services to visiting tourists, and local citizenry and support them in income generating activities as well.

The Chief Executive Officer of USF, Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary apprised the Board members about the projects. He also shed light on the new programme that focuses on providing High Speed Mobile Broadband services to tourist destinations. Furthermore, he added that the team of USF is working relentlessly to provide High Speed Mobile Broadband services in areas such as Babusar Top, Lake Saif Ul Malook and Sharan Forest in Manshera district, Kumrat Valley in Upper Dir district, Mahodand Lake in Swat district and Galiyaat. This will not only provide Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to domestic and foreign tourists but also play a significant role in sending timely response to the concerned agencies in case of an emergency.

According to the details, the Board approved award of contracts under the Next Generation Broadband for Sustainable Development programme worth around Rs3.68 billion to Jazz, Telenor and Ufone that will benefit an unserved population of approximately 2.6 million and an approximate unserved area of 37,730 sq km.

Jazz is being awarded the contract of Shikarpur, Jacobabad and Kashmore districts in the province of Sindh, Multan and Khanewal districts in the province of Punjab and Pishin, Killa Abdullah and Quetta districts in the province of Balochistan. This will serve an unserved population of around 2.22 million in 819 unserved muazas and an approximate unserved area of 16,357 sq km. Similarly, Telenor is being awarded the contract of Swat, Swabi, Nowshera, Mardan and Charsadda districts in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that will benefit an unserved population of approximately 0.22 Million in 120 unserved muazas and approximately 2,279 sq km of unserved area. Likewise, Ufone is being awarded the contract of Panjgur district in the province of Balochistan that will benefit an unserved population of approximately 0.15 million in 69 unserved muazas and approximately 19,094 sq km of unserved area.

The Board also approved award of contracts under the Optic Fiber Cable programme to Nayatel and PTCL for the province of Punjab. Nayatel is being awarded the contract of Ranjanpur and Muzaffargarh districts while PTCL is being awarded the contract of DG Khan District. The Optic Fiber Cable projects are valued at approximately Rs4.47 billion that aim at laying of 1,632 km of optical fiber cable to connect 228 towns and union councils thereby providing high speed mobile broadband services to an unserved population of approximately 4.98 million.

Other Board members comprising Muhamad Omar Malik, Member- Telecom MoITT, Maj Gen Amir Azeem Bajwa (R), Chairman PTA; Shabahat Ali Shah, CEO-NITB; Irfan Wahab, CEO-Telenor Pakistan; Imran Akhtar Shah, VP for Government Sales, Super Net Pvt Ltd and Nominee of Data Licensees; Kaukab Iqbal, Chairman-Consumer Association of Pakistan and Nominee of Consumer Group; and management of USF Co also attended the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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