USF okays Rs21bn contracts for underserved areas – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The Universal Service Fund (USF) Board approved the award of 10 contracts worth about Rs 21 billion to the unserved and underserved communities of Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK).

The high-speed mobile broadband, trunk roads and highways, and fiber optic cable (OFC) projects will provide 4G LTE connectivity and backhaul connectivity to approximately 3.5 million people, connecting 187 Union Councils (UCs) with 1,554 km of OFC and seamlessly provide connectivity to 622km of unserviced road segments on the M-8 and N-35 motorways.

The Additional Secretary (Incharge) for the Ministry of Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunications and Chairman of the USF Board Mohsin Mushtaq Chandna chaired the 83rd Board Meeting of the USF at the USF Office.

While congratulating the USF Board on launching 10 projects, German Minister of IT and Telecom Syed Amin Ul Haque said in his message: “The Ministry of IT and Telecom has taken another concrete step through USF to further the vision of the digital pakistan. We are on the path of the “Meaningful Connectivity and Smartphones for All” policy. These projects will improve social equity, employment opportunities and digital literacy for people in the unserved and underserved areas, and strengthen the foundations of our digital infrastructure. I am proud to say that we are at the forefront of creating information-rich communities and accelerating socio-economic growth in the country.”

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Speaking before the meeting, Chandna said, “Under the leadership of Federal Minister Syed Amin Ul Haque, USF has delivered a record productive performance over the past 4 years by signing 79 projects worth approximately PKR 62.7 billion in grants . This is a testament to our total commitment to improving the lives and livelihoods of Pakistan’s unserved and underserved communities.” He also stressed the importance of infrastructure, affordability and accessibility of the internet and pledged to work with all stakeholders to advance the vision of Digital Realize Pakistan.

USF Chief Executive Officer Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary updated board members on the progress of current projects and the restoration of the flood-hit USF network, saying, “These projects will empower approximately 3.3 million people living in far-flung and backward areas across Pakistan, giving them access to e-services in various areas, from financial services such as banking and credit to access to various government services and benefits.”

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According to the details, the Board approved the award of five high-speed mobile broadband contracts worth approximately PKR 7.1 billion for the provision of 4G LTE services in the rural and remote districts of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. These projects benefit the people living in 262 unserved Muazas of Dera Ghazi Khan, Layyah, Muzaffargarh, Multan and Rajanpur districts in Punjab; Jamshoro in Sindh; and Barkhan, Musakhel, Sherani and Sibi in Balochistan; thereby covering an approximate unserviced area of ​​12,784.91 km².

In addition, the Board approved the award of two high-speed mobile broadband projects for National Highways and Motorways, valued at approximately PKR 6 billion, to provide commuter 4G LTE services on an unserved 622.68km stretch of road on the M Highway -8 and the N-35 highway, respectively.

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Similarly, the USF Board also approved the award of three OFC projects valued at approximately PKR 7.7 billion to provide backhaul connectivity to 187 Union Councils (UCs) of Punjab and KPK. Through these projects, USF will provide a total of 1,554 km of OFC that will benefit over 3.3 million people in Attock, Sheikhupura and Nankana Sahib districts in Punjab and Banuu and Lakki Marwat in KPK. These projects are expected to connect 684 educational institutions, 223 government offices and 268 healthcare facilities along with the mandatory connectivity of 408 BTS towers.

Other board members including Maj Gen Amir Azeem Bajwa (retd), Chairman PTA; Irfan Wahab Khan, CEO of Telenor; Muhamad Omar Malik, Member – Telecommunications, Ministry of IT and Telecommunications; Kaukab Iqbal, President of the Consumers Association of Pakistan; Imran Akhtar Shah, Vice President of Super Net (Pvt) Ltd and USF senior management also attended the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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