Universal Service Fund Pakistan (USF) is facing security issues while setting up towers to provide mobile service in certain areas of Baluchistan due to the involvement of warlords. This was revealed during a recent meeting of the sub-committee of the National Assembly chaired by Syed Mehmood Shah.
USF officials told the committee that they were facing security issues in the areas occupied by warlords in setting up towers to provide better mobile services. The committee members also apprised that no mobile service was available in Chief Minister House in Quetta.
The funding for the construction of towers was funded by USF itself. USF has been providing funds for the provision of internet and mobile services in Dera Bugti and other remote areas, and as a result, the service quality in the remote areas has been improved.
The committee also talked about the Internet and mobile service issues in different parts of the country. The committee members pointed out that no mobile service was available in Chief Minister House situated in Quetta
Officials from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), commenting on the issue, said that the authority was working on a national roaming service. They further added that the infrastructures, such as the towers, being constructed in remote areas of the country were to be shared by telecommunication companies as a part of the project.
The PTA officials also revealed that the authority had auctioned the spectrum in 2021. However, only 51 percent of the spectrum was purchased, and the remaining is yet to be assailed.
Officials from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government told the committee that the province had data connectivity issues due to security threats. Secretary KP government said that the first-generation service was only available in whereas many areas in Naran, Kagan, and Kumrat were facing service issues. He also added that major tourist locations in the province were also suffering from the same problems.
In response, USF officials informed the committee that the fund covered 27 tourist destinations, however, work on five projects had been stalled in Swat. They further informed the committee that a 153-kilometer coverage project was to be completed in KP within a year. The USF officials suggested that there was a need for legislation regarding the service issues.
The officials of the fund revealed that operators in many areas of KP were slow to operate as they generated very low revenue. Regarding the service issues in KP, USF decided that it would nominate a focal person for the province.
USF was also questioned by Chief Secretary Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) for not investing a single rupee in the area. He further added that the fund had acquired Rs. 1 billion from the AJK government. He said that the responsibility of provision of service in AJK was handed over to the Federal Government after the thirteenth amendment.
Chief Secretary further criticized USF, pointing out that the internet users in the region were 57 percent, whereas the rate of the mobile service was 98 percent. He demanded that if the fund was not going to invest in the region, then, it should return the money or hand it over to a third party. At the request of USF, the IT ministry revealed that the AJK region does not fall under the mandate of the fund.
Regarding the service issues in AJK, the committee decided to hold a meeting in Kashmir House during the next week. The committee also said that the matter of Rs. 1 billion of the AJK government to USF would be considered during the meeting.
USF officials, talking about the issue in KP, said that approval was required for the construction of towers in tourist destinations in the region. They added that they were difficulties in getting approval for the construction of towers in the forest area. They requested the KP government to give timely approvals so the projects in the area could be started.