The federal government has decided to extend 3G and 4G internet services to Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) during the ongoing calendar year (2016).
In an exclusive chat with ProPakistani, Chaudhry Barjees Tahir, Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has issued special directives for the early launch of 3G/4G services in AJK and GB.
The launch of 3G/4G internet facility in the two regions was discussed during a high-level meeting last week, which was also attended by the Director General Special Communication Organization (SCO). For further deliberations and providing necessary facilities before the launch of 3G/4G services, concerned officials — including DG SCO — would meet again on February 18, the minister disclosed.
The minister said that Planning Commission Thursday approved the PC-1 “replacement of GSM Network of AJ&K” worth Rs 1,450 million, and the required money would be issued soon.
Barjees Tahir further said that it has been decided to meet other financial requirements for upgrading the network from the Universal Service Fund (USF) of AJK & GB.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), on the request from AJ&K and GB Council, has already decided to auction spectrum for 3G/4G services in AJ&K and GB, However with the existing GSM network of SCO, it was not possible for the organization to upgrade its network to 3G and 4G.
SCO has about one million subscribers in AJK and is considered as a major stakeholder in the region.
GSM network of SCO completed its life in 2014, therefore, there was a dire need of technology and capacity enhancement before the launch of 3G/4G services. After getting the required funds for replacement of GSM Network of SCO, a major hurdle in the launch of 3G and 4G services in AJK and GB has been cleared.
Owing to the absence of modern internet facilities in the AJK and GB, people of the two regions could not develop their skills in different sectors, especially education and health.
After the launch of 3G/4G services in Pakistan, the demand of these facilities increased manifold. The government has also directed the relevant authorities to complete legal requirements to extend the facility to GB and AJK, besides devising a mechanism for a fair and open auction of the 3G and 4G spectrum in AJK and GB.
In a press statement, issued moments ago, Ministry of IT and Telecom has said that Chaudhry Barjees Tahir, Federal Minister for Kashmir affairs and Gilgit Baltistan and Minister of state for IT and telecom Mrs. Anusha Rehman had a consultative meeting to discuss different aspects of policy directive for provision of Next Generation Mobile services to AJK & GB.
Federal Secretary of Kashmir affairs and GB Abid Saeed, Federal Secretary IT Mr. Azmat Ali Ranjha, DG SCO Maj Gen Amir Bajwa Chairman PTA, DG FAB, and other senior officials from both the ministries were present in the Meeting.
Federal Minister Kashmir affairs and GB said that Prime Minister has committed that AJK & GB will get soon 3G/4G services and people of these two areas are anxiously waiting for this.
Different aspects of policy directives of proposed next generation spectrum auction were also discussed at length.
Both sides agreed to execute this 3G/4G spectrum auction by September 2016.
Minister IT also said that around Rs.2 Billion are available in the USF Fund for development of ICT sector in AJK & GB.
As soon as framework is finalized by AJK & GB Councils, the funds will be transferred to USF for development in AJK&GB.