LAHORE: The Universal Service Fund (USF) Board approved award of contracts, worth approximately Rs8.81 billion, to provide high speed mobile broadband services for around 6 million people in un-served and under-served areas of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Advised by the Federal Minister for Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunication, Syed Amin Ul Haque, the USF Board also approved award of ‘Next Generation Broadband for Sustainable Development’ contracts to Telenor, Ufone and Jazz and optic fiber cable contracts to PTCL. These projects were approved in the 75th board of directors meeting of USF, presided over by the Federal Secretary for Ministry of Information Technology (IT) and Chairman of USF Board Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui.
During the meeting, special focus was given to the far-flung areas of Balochistan and the tribal areas of KP province. According to the details, the Board approved award of contracts under the Next Generation Broadband for Sustainable Development programme, worth around Rs4.7 billion to Telenor, Ufone and Jazz that will benefit an unserved population of approximately 0.98 million and an approximate unserved area of 86,773sq.km.
Telenor is being awarded the contract of Chaghi and Nushki districts in the province of Balochistan that will serve an unserved population of around 0.16 million in 170 unserved muazas and an approximate unserved area of 47,872sq. km. Likewise, Ufone is being awarded the contract of Gwadar, Kech and Panjgur districts in the province of Balochistan that will benefit an unserved population of approximately 0.48 million in 377 unserved muazas and approximately 34,899sq. km of unserved area. Similarly, Jazz is being awarded the contract of Jhelum and Chakwal districts in the province of Punjab that will benefit an unserved population of approximately 0.34 million in 263 unserved muazas and an approximate unserved area of 4,002sq. km.
The USF Board paid special attention to the tribal areas of KP that were earlier considered troubled and dangerous in terms of security. After the establishment of peace in these districts, the Board approved award of contracts under the optic fiber cable programme to PTCL for Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, frontier region Peshawar and frontier region Kohat districts in the KP and Naushahro Feroze, Shaheed Benazirabad and Khairpur districts in the province of Sindh. The optic fiber cable projects are valued at approximately Rs4.65 billion that aim at laying of 1,466km of optical fiber cable to connect 130 towns and union councils, thereby providing high speed mobile broadband services to an unserved population of approximately 5.01 million.
Meanwhile, the Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication Syed Amin Ul Haque in his message, congratulated the chairman of the Board, the CEO and other Board members on presenting record broadband projects and expressed concern about people’s problems, rather than seeking recognition for this. He also said that the rapid pace of work for digital Pakistan, under the Ministry of IT and Telecommunication, needs no praise. Further, he said that the greatest honour and medal for us will be providing Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to the common man in our time. He added that the Ministry of IT and Telecommunication and its subsidiary departments are showing their significance and usefulness through their performance.
Addressing the meeting, Federal Secretary for IT and Telecommunication and Chairman of USF Board, Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui said that as advised by federal minister for IT and Telecommunication, the main objective of these projects is to provide facilities to those living in remote areas with either no access to the internet or struggling with poor connectivity. He also said that the Ministry of IT and Telecommunication is working expeditiously to accomplish the vision of digital Pakistan.
Moreover, he said that after the establishment of peace in the most backward areas like Gwadar, Chaghi, Kech and other dangerous tribal areas, the substantial amount of subsidy for optic fiber cable contracts is a proof that the Ministry of IT and Telecommunication is leaving no stone unturned to provide Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to every citizen of Pakistan.
While referring to the Board meeting on October 19, he mentioned that the Board had approved projects worth over Rs5.11 billion for the provision of mobile phone connectivity and broadband services in remote and backward areas of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. Thus, in the first half of the current financial year, under the direction of federal minister for IT and Telecommunication, the USF Board has approved a record number of projects worth over Rs13.92 billion to transform the lives of over 10 million people and this is a testament to the excellent performance of Ministry of IT and Telecommunication and the Universal Service Fund.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of USF, Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary apprised the Board members about the projects. While expressing gratitude to Federal Minister Syed Amin Ul Haque, Federal Secretary and Chairman of USF Board Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui and the Board members for showing great confidence in USF, he stated that USF ensures merit, transparency and timely completion of projects. He also said that USF’s role in achieving the vision of digital Pakistan vision remains significant. Furthermore, he added that the people of the tribal areas of KP had a longing to be a part of digital transformation, therefore, as soon as we acquired the right of way, we initiated our projects on priorities basis. This will be great news for the people of tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Earlier, at the beginning of the meeting, the Board members offered Fateha for Rashid Khan, President and CEO, Ufone and PTCL, and others those lost their life during fighting COVID-19. Other Board members comprising Maj. Gen (R) Amir Azeem Bajwa, Chairman PTA, Shabahat Ali Shah, CEO-NITB, 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, Muhamad Omar Malik, Member- Telecom and Management of USF Co. also attended the meeting.