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ISLAMABAD: The Universal Service Fund (USF) has awarded a contract worth approximately PKR 6.78 billion to Ufone for providing high-speed mobile broadband services in Sibi district of Balochistan province and Motorway M-8.

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Aminul Haque and Federal Minister for Science and Technology Agha Hassan Baloch witnessed the contract-signing ceremony and launch of the Research Impact Assessment Study, here on Thursday.

The contracts were signed by Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary, CEO of USF with Hatem Bamatraf, President and Group CEO, PTCL and Ufone 4G.

The Secretary for IT and Telecommunication and Chairman USF Board, Navid Ahmed Shaikh, and Member Telecom Muhammad Omar Malik were also present at the ceremony.

While addressing the ceremony, Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication Haque said, “We are gathered here today to commemorate the signing ceremony of two new projects that target the provision of uninterrupted voice and 4G broadband data services in Balochistan.”

He further said one of these projects is worth PKR 1.96 billion that aim to empower around 34,000 individuals residing in 47 mauzas of Sibbi district. Additionally, another project worth PKR 4.82 billion has been initiated to ensure voice and 4G coverage on 478 kms of previously unserved road segments along the M-8 motorway.

One of the salient features of this project is that national roaming will be enabled for commuters for uninterrupted services. These road segments pass through various districts including Gwadar, Kech, Awaran, Khuzdar, and JhalMagsi in Balochistan, as well as Kambar Shahdad Kot and Larkana in Sindh.

The minister thanked the Federal Minister Agha Hassan Baloch for his time and apprised him of the development projects of the Ministry of IT and Telecommunication in Balochistan.

He said, “Ministry of IT and Telecommunication through the USF has been at the forefront of digital transformation in Pakistan, with a dedicated focus on extending meaningful access to connectivity for the people of Balochistan.”

He further said these efforts include implementing projects to provide 4G Broadband services to unserved population, deployment of optic fiber cable as well as providing seamless coverage to National Highways and Motorways in the province through national roaming.

During the last five years, the USF has launched 21 new projects worth Rs 27.12 billion under its high-speed broadband programme that targets the provision of 4G data services across the province.

Under these projects, 936 BTS sites will be deployed to serve approximately 2.9 million people residing in 2,760 mauzas, and 2,205 km of unserved road segments on Motorway M-8 (RatoDero to Gwadar), Coastal Highway, National Highway 25 and 65 and 50 and 70 will be provided with connectivity. Out of these, 527 BTS sites (approximately 56 percent) have already been deployed serving a population of approximately two million residing in 1,726 mauzas, and 1,727 km of unserved road segments.

Among the total 3,096 BTS sites installed in Balochistan, approximately 36.5 percent (1,131 sites) have been deployed through USF projects. Of these USF sites, around 87.3 percent (988 sites) are currently utilised for offering voice and high-speed broadband (4G) services across the province.

While addressing the ceremony, Federal Minister Agha Hassan Baloch expressed his gratitude towards Federal Minister Haque for his initiation of development projects in Balochistan.

He emphasized that the Ministry of Science and Technology is committed to providing full assistance and support for the advancement of the IT industry. He also commended the dedicated teams of USF and Ufone for their outstanding efforts, acknowledging their potential to bring about transformative change in the lives and livelihoods of individuals. By connecting people to the digital world and creating avenues for growth and development, these initiatives hold the promise of unlocking new opportunities for a brighter future.

CEO of USF Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary said: “I am delighted to witness the contract-signing ceremony of Sibbi and M-8 projects for Balochistan with Ufone and thrilled to announce the launch of the Research Impact Assessment Study. This event marks another milestone in our journey towards enhancing connectivity in rural areas. While we have been making remarkable strides in improving connectivity, it was essential to quantify the level of empowerment within each family and assess the consumption of e-services for enhancing their lives. President and Group CEO, PTCL and Ufone 4G, Hatem Bamatraf said, “As a crucial player in the telecommunications industry, Ufone 4G plays a pivotal role in shaping connectivity nationwide.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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