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ISLAMABAD: The Universal Service Fund (USF) has spent around Rs124 billion so far to implement 130 projects across the country envisaging expanding telecom services to un-served and under-served areas.

The USF; however is facing several challenges including security, equipment theft, and equipment import as a result of Letter of Credit margin issues, which are hampering progress and delaying the timely execution of various projects in the pipeline.

The fund was created in 2007 to stretch cellular, broadband internet, fibre optics, and other telecommunication services to un-served or underserved areas. All telecom companies have been contributing 1.5 per cent of their revenues to the fund. Telecommunication coverage was around 44 per cent before USF was launched in 2006-07.

According to documents, of the total Rs123.5 billion subsidies, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) took a major chunk of Rs36.7 billion (29.7 per cent), Ufone Rs30.2 billion (24.4 per cent), Telenor Rs27.7 billion (23 per cent), Zong Rs5.637 billion (4.5 per cent), Wateen Rs4.847 (3.93 per cent), World Call Rs1.273 billion (1.03 per cent), Jazz Rs12.237 billion (9.9 per cent), and Nayatel Rs3.314 billion (2.7 per cent).

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An official said that the “Broadband for Sustainable Development” program, under the USF, is designed to provide telecom services to the un-served Mauzas across the country. After the issuance of 3G/4G licenses by the federal government, this programme has been redesigned to include broadband equivalent data (internet) services as a compulsory component.

For new projects, powering the telecommunication sites through solar energy was also made a part of each project. According to documents, 1,699 base transceiver stations (BTS) have been installed and 12,825 Mauzas have been covered.

The optic fibre programme is another initiative under USF that aims to promote the development of telecommunication services in un-served and under-served rural areas to enable affordable, voice, telephony and basic data services.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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