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ISLAMABAD: The Universal Service Fund (USF) Board approved four projects worth around Rs 993 million to provide high-speed internet services to approximately 0.66 million people in un-served and under-served areas of Sindh and Punjab provinces.

Advised by the Federal Minister for Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunication, Syed Aminul Haque, the USF Board approved award of high-speed mobile broadband contracts to Jazz. The Federal Secretary for Ministry of IT and Telecommunication and Chairman of USF Board, Dr Muhammad Sohail Rajput chaired the 78th Board of Directors meeting of the USF on Monday.

While addressing the meeting, Dr Rajput said, "Access to broadband connectivity is a necessity, and therefore, improving rural access is of crucial priority. We are contributing effectively towards the realization of Digital Pakistan vision and the development of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector to promote sustainable development. These projects will play a vital role in providing better access to education and healthcare facilities to the marginalized communities."

Further, he added that 4G connectivity across the country will make a huge contribution in the socio-economic development of Pakistan. The Chief Executive Officer of USF, Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary, apprised the Board members about the projects. He also shed light on meaningful and accurate representation of the financial and non-financial performance and position of the company.

In his opening remarks, he said, fiscal year 2020-2021 was indeed an exciting year for our Company, filled with challenges, successes, energy, and lots of learning. According to the details, the Board approved award of high-speed mobile broadband contracts to Jazz for districts of Kambar Shahdadkot, Larkana, Naushahro Feroze, and Shaheed Benazirabad.

These projects will serve an unserved population of around 0.66 million in 797 unserved muazas and an approximate unserved area of 5,509 sq km. Furthermore, the Board also approved award of high-speed mobile broadband for National Highways and Motorways contracts to Jazz for providing high-speed mobile broadband services to commuters on M3 and M5 motorways respectively. On M3, an unserved road segment of 54.92 km in districts of Sheikhupura, Nankana Sahib, Faisalabad, Toba Tek Singh andKhanewal will be provided with 4G connectivity.

Similarly, on M5, unserved road segment of 78.85 km in districts of Multan, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Kashmore, Ghotki,and Sukkur will be provided with 4G connectivity.

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

The USF last week awarded contract worth around Rs 1.36 billion to Telenor for providing high-speed mobile broadband 4G services in Chaghi and Nushki districts of Balochistan province.

This project in Balochistan will benefit an unserved population of 0.16 million in 170 unserved mauzas, thereby, covering an unserved area of 47,872 sq km of Chaghi and Nushki districts.

The total number of projects for 14 districts of Balochistan at a cost of Rs 8.43 billion has increased to 11. The completion of these projects will benefit more than 2.2 million people from 2,024 villages of Bolan, Jaffarabad, Mastung, Ziarat, Kichh, Panjgur, Gwadar, Pishin, Qila Abdullah, and surrounding areas.

Under which, the project of providing mobile service on 701 km highway from NH25 to NH10 has been completed at a cost of Rs 759 million. While projects worth Rs 250 million on 650 km highway from NH25 to NH65 and more than Rs 410 million on 451 km highway from NH50 to NH70 are under completion.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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