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ISLAMABAD: The Universal Service Fund (USF) Board, on Monday, approved four projects worth Rs 2.14 billion to provide high-speed internet to approximately 2.2 million people in unserved and underserved areas of the Punjab and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

The internet contracts were awarded to Telenor and Jazz, and optic fiber cable contract to Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL).

The Board also approved the USF’s budget worth Rs18 billion for fiscal year 2021-22.

The Federal Secretary for Ministry of IT and Telecommunication and Chairman of USF Board, Dr Sohail Rajput, chaired the 77th Board of Directors meeting of the USF, here on Monday.

While addressing the meeting, Dr Rajput said: “The Ministry of IT and Telecommunication through USF is ensuring adequate access to communication infrastructures for all citizens for the realization of Digital Pakistan vision.”

The federal secretary also added that as advised by the Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication, Syed Amin UlHaque, the Board has approved these projects to improve rural populations’ standard of living, create jobs, and make access to government services easier.

Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary, Chief Executive Officer of the USF briefed the Board about ongoing and upcoming projects. He welcomed Dr Rajput as Chairman of the USF Board.

“USF is committed to provide digital way to connect the peoples with Digital World by its projects and will strengthen partnerships, develop strategic alliances and further expand its footprint,” he added.

The Board approved award of contracts under the Next Generation Broadband for Sustainable Development (NGBSD) programme worth around Rs 1.19 billion to Telenor and Jazz that will benefit an unserved population of over one million and an approximate unserved area of 6,280 sq km.

Telenor is being awarded the contract of Okara, Pakpattan, and Sahiwal districts in the Punjab that will serve an unserved population of around 0.57 million in 778 unserved muazas, and an approximate unserved area of 1,540 sq km.

Jazz is being awarded the contract of Attock and Rawalpindi districts in the Punjab, and Bannu, Lakki Marwat districts in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

This will benefit an unserved population of approximately 0.5 million in 423 unserved muazas and approximately 4,740 sq km of unserved area.

The Board also approved award of contract under the Optic Fiber Cable (OFC) program to the PTCL for Layyah and DG Khan districts in Punjab.

The OFC project is valued at approximately Rs 950 million that aims at laying of 469 km of OFC to connect 49 towns and union councils thereby, providing Broadband access to an unserved population of approximately 1.15 million.

The board was informed that the USF has launched various projects to provide telecommunication coverage to approximately 12,000 unserved mauzas with a population of around 15 million across all provinces of Pakistan.

More than 8,364 unserved mauzas across the country have already been provided with coverage through the USF.

In the current fiscal year, 203 mauzas have been served by the USF under previously running projects, whereas, Rs46.97 million have been disbursed upon completion of various project milestones.

Till April, 2021, 8,184km of OFC has been laid and 146 THQs/towns have been provided with the connectivity.

In current fiscal year, 238 kms of fibre has been laid connecting 11 THQs/towns, whereas, Rs 140 million has been disbursed.

Other Board members comprising, Muhamad Omar Malik, Member-Telecom, MoITT, Maj Gen Amir Azeem Bajwa (retired), Chairman PTA, Shabahat Ali Shah, CEONITB, 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 the USF also attended the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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