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ISLAMABAD: The Universal Service Fund (USF) is facing security issues in some areas of erstwhile FATA and Balochistan in laying optic fibre cables and installing mobile phone towers to improve telecom and internet services.

This was revealed by USF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Haris Mehmood Chaudhry, while briefing the sub-committee of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication.

The committee meeting was held here on Tuesday, which was chaired by Syed Mehmood Shah to discuss and suggest measures for provision/improvement of telecommunication services in the country especially in Balochistan, erstwhile FATA, tourists’ destination, and motorways.

The committee also discussed the mobile phone and internet services in remote areas of the country under the USF.

Ramesh Kumar, Member National Assembly from Tharparkar informed the committee about his concerns regarding mobile phone and internet service in area.

The USF CEO briefed the committee on ongoing USF projects in Tharparkar and assured that the issues of mobile phone and internet service in Tharparkar would be resolved.

He informed the committee that the USF is working in all districts of Balochistan and completed work on 1,800km highways in the province.

The USF is taking steps on priority basis for mobile phone and internet services in Balochistan, he added.

Chaudhry further said that the USF has laid 6,000km of fibre in Balochistan.

In an area with a population of 100,000, the USF is increasing coverage to 80 percent instead of 60 percent, he added.

The CEO further said that fibre is being laid at 314km in Gwadar.

The USF is re-surveying in Kalat and other areas, where there are coverage issues.

In the erstwhile FATA and Balochistan, the USF is facing difficulties in some areas, the CEO added.

There are also problems with installing mobile phone towers in some areas.

Fibre for mobile phone and internet service are being laid in eight tehsils in the erstwhile FATA, of which work has been completed in four tehsils and work is in progress in four, the USF CEO added.

The USF is working in 23 districts of Sindh.

The USF is working in all districts of Punjab because there are very few problems in Punjab, he added. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) officials briefed the committee regarding measures taken to prevent fake SIMs.

The crime rate in Pakistan is higher than other countries, the committee observed.

The committee recommended that the PTA needs to take special measures to curb the use of fake SIMs to curb crime.

The committee asked the PTA officials if the installation of mobile phone towers have any adverse effects on human health.

The PTA officials informed the committee that mobile phone towers have no harmful health effects on human health.

The committee summoned the provincial chief secretaries to its next meeting to address the issues facing the USF at the administrative and regional levels in the provinces.

The committee has also summoned senior officials of the USF Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir for its next meeting. The USF CEO assured the committee of full support to improve mobile phone and internet service across the country.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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