High-speed mobile broadband services in Balochistan, Sindh, KP: USF Board approves projects worth Rs5.1bn

ISLAMABAD: The Universal Service Fund (USF) Board on Monday approved projects worth Rs 5.1 billion to provide hi-speed mobile broadband services in Balochistan, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Federal Secretary Ministry of IT and Telecommunication Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui chaired 74th Board of Directors meeting of the USF on Monday.

The board approved award of contracts to Telenor, Zong, Ufone, and PTCL worth Rs 5.11 billion through the Next Generation Broadband for Sustainable Development Programme, and the Next Generation Optical Fiber Network and Services Programme.

The PTCL is being awarded the contract of Kashmore, Ghotki, Sukkur, and Khairpur, districts in the province of Sindh.

The Next Generation Optical Fiber Network and Services projects worth approximately Rs 3 billion is aimed at laying of 1,078 km of Optical Fiber Cable to connect 140 villages, and union councils, thereby, providing high speed mobile broadband services to an unserved population of approximately 4.7 million.

Moreover, the board also approved award of contracts under the Next Generation Broadband for Sustainable Development Programme worth Rs 2 billion to Telenor, Zong, and Ufone.

Telenor is being awarded the contract of Chitral, Upper Dir and Lower Dir districts in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, whereby, an unserved population of around 0.7 million will benefit from high speed mobile broadband services in 648 unserved villages, and an approximate unserved area of 18,212 square kilometres.

Likewise, Zong is being awarded the contract of Karachi West and Malir districts in the province of Sindh that will benefit an unserved population of approximately 0.1 million in 36 unserved villages and approximately 690 sq km of unserved area. Similarly, Ufone is being awarded the contract of Mastung and Ziarat districts in the province of Balochistan to serve an unserved population of approximately 0.1 million in 226 unserved villages and an approximate unserved area of 6,324 sq km. During the meeting, Federal Secretary Ministry of IT and Telecommunication Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui said that as advised by the Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication, Syed Aminul Haque, the basic purpose of those projects was not only to promote tourism infrastructure of the country but also to connect rural population with the digital world.

The Chief Executive Officer of USF, Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary, briefed the board members about the projects.

Furthermore, he added that the USF’s contribution to Digital Pakistan vision remained distinguished.

Other board members comprising Maj Gen Amir Azeem Bajwa (Retired), 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; Rashid Khan, CEO-PTCL and Nominee of Fixed Line Operators; 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.

A senior official told Business Recorder that around Rs 57 billion had been spent so far under the USF to provide telecom services to un-served and under-served areas.

The Fund has around Rs 30 billion in balance.