USF Approves Rs. 10 Billion for New Optical Fiber and Broadband Projects

The Universal Service Fund (USF) Board approved an award of 8 contracts worth approximately Rs. 10 billion to provide internet connectivity to about 3.3 million people through High-Speed Broadband services and Optic Fiber Cable (OFC) connectivity in the un-served and under-served areas of Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) provinces.

The contracts were awarded to Jazz, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), Ufone and Telenor. The completion time for all projects would be 16 months from the date of Contract signing.

The USF Board also approved the annual budget of USF for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022-23, over Rs. 32 billion. The Secretary of the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT), and Chairman USF Board, Mr. Mohsin Mushtaq Chandna chaired the 82nd Board of Directors (BoD) meeting of USF at the USF Office on Thursday.

In his message; Federal Minister for IT and Telecom, Syed Amin-Ul-Haque, while congratulating the USF Board on the approval of the projects, said, “From July 2018 to June 2022, USF has launched a record 57 projects worth Rs. 62 billion which speaks volumes about its performance and a proof of its commitment to connect all the un/under-served communities of Pakistan, enabling them to compete better in an economic environment that is constantly changing in response to technology evolutions.”

He said that the USF annual development budget for digital connectivity has increased from Rs. 18 billion to Rs. 31 billion in FY 2022-23 which will increase connectivity in backward areas and strengthen ICT activities. “Efforts are being made to eliminate digital disparities in urban and rural areas. USF has launched projects in remote and backward areas of the four provinces of the country,” he added.

Syed Amin-Ul-Haque said that Prime Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif wants to increase IT exports. This is possible only if broadband services are available in rural and backward areas as well as urban areas so that talented young IT professionals cannot only get decent jobs through IT but also play their role in stabilizing the national economy.

While addressing the meeting, Secretary MoITT & Chairman USF Board, Mr. Mohsin Mushtaq Chandna said, “Under the leadership of Federal Minister, Syed Amin Ul Haque, Ministry of IT and Telecommunication through USF is accelerating its efforts in enabling the rural and remote communities of Pakistan with access to a better standard of living and financial opportunities.”

The Chief Executive Officer of USF, Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary apprised the Board members about the current projects. He expressed his sincere gratitude to the Federal Minister, Syed Amin Ul Haque, Chairman of USF Board, Mohsin Mushtaq and the Board members and key stakeholders for their visionary leadership and said, “USF is ending the fiscal year FY 2021-22 with record performance and aims to further build its momentum and break all previous records in FY 2022-23.”

According to the details, the Board approved the award of 5 high-speed mobile broadband contracts worth approximately Rs. 5.25 billion to Jazz, Ufone and Telenor for providing 3G/4G services in the isolated districts of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan.

These projects will benefit around 1.23 million people living in 1,011 unserved muazas of Lodhran, Vehari, Sheikhupura, Nankana Sahib, Kasur, Sialkot, Narowal and Gujrat districts in Punjab, Thatta, Sujawal, Tando Muhammad Khan, Badin, Hyderabad, Umarkot and Tando Allahyar in Sindh and Loralai in Balochistan, thereby covering an approximate unserved area of 10,574 sq. km.

Furthermore, the Board also approved the award of high-speed mobile broadband services for the National Highways and Motorways contract worth Rs. 449 Million to Jazz for providing 4G services to commuters on the M-4 motorway respectively. Under this project, an unserved road segment of 70.67 km passing through districts of Hafizabad, Faisalabad, Toba Tek Singh, and Khanewal & Multan will be provided with 4G mobile internet connectivity.

Similarly, the USF Board also approved an award of 2 OFC contracts worth approximately Rs. 4.8 billion to PTCL for providing backhaul connectivity to 91 Union Councils (UCs) of Balochistan and KPK. Under these projects, USF will deploy a total of 884 km of OFC that will benefit over 2 million people in the districts of Gwadar in Balochistan and Peshawar, Nowshera, Charsadda and Mardan in KPK.

These projects are designed to connect 872 educational institutions, 391 government offices and 216 health institutions along with a mandatory connection of 527 BTS towers within a 5-mile radius of the node.

Other Board members comprising Muhamad Omar Malik, Member- Telecom, Ministry of IT and Telecommunication; Maj. Gen (R) Amir Azeem Bajwa, Chairman-PTA; 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; and management of USF also attended the meeting.

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