The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MOITT) has launched seven more projects, worth over Rs8 billion, to provide broadband services to over 2.5 million people in the un-served and under-served areas of the four provinces, including Rs3.5 billion projects for Balochistan.
The projects were approved at the 81st meeting of the board of directors of the Universal Service Fund (USF) on Monday.
Secretary IT & Telecom and Chairman USF Board Dr Muhammad Sohail Rajput chaired the meeting while Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication (PTA) Major General (retd) Amir Azeem Bajwa, Member Telecom Muhammad Umar Malik, CEO Telenor Irfan Wahab Khan, Imran Akhtar Shah, Kokab Iqbal, Sibte Hassan Gardezi and other officials were present.
Chief Executive Officer USF Haaris Mahmood Chaudhry gave a detailed briefing to the board about the projects. The meeting was told that the number of projects for providing optical fibre cable and broadband services since 2018 has reached a record number of 56 and the total cost (subsidy) has exceeded Rs52 billion.
Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin-Ul-Haque, while congratulating the USF Board on the launch of the projects, said whatever the political situation, the MOITT and its subsidiaries, especially the USF, continue to perform. He said that the Ministry of IT through USF is committed to connecting the people in remote areas with the digital world.
He said projects started during the tenure of the present government are being ensured to complete in stipulated time. While for all the projects under the rules only the lowest bidding telecom operators were selected, he said.
One of the approved projects will provide 4G services in Qila Saifullah and Zhob in Balochistan. The project has been awarded to Pak Telecom Mobile Limited (Ufone) at a subsidy of Rs3.57 billion while the completion period would be 18 months.
The plan to provide broadband services in Jhang, Bhakkar, and Toba Tek Singh districts of Punjab has been given to Jazz on which the amount of subsidy given is Rs2.25 billion with one year completion time.
The meeting also approved the project of uninterrupted voice and broadband services on a 95-km section of Hakla DI Khan Motorway to Jazz at a subsidy of Rs375.33 million.
Similarly, a plan to provide broadband service in six villages on the outskirts of Islamabad has been handed over to Jazz at a cost of Rs11 million.
A project to provide mobile services in a mauza of Mandi Bahauddin has also been handed over to Jazz at a cost of Rs22.6 million.
Under the optical fiber cable (OFC) program, 555 km-long fiber optic cable laying project in Larkana and Qambar Shahdad Kot districts of Sindh has been given to PTCL with a total subsidy of Rs1.61 billion and the completion period is one year.
Another project under Optical Fiber Cable Programme, PTCL was also given a project to lay 106-km long cable for a population of more than 136,000 in 6 union councils of Haripur and Islamabad out of total cost Rs410 million, the subsidy approved of Rs235 million.
In addition, the USF board of directors has approved in principle the appointment of Alia Afridi for the post of company secretary in the USF.
According to a recent report, there were 82.90 million internet users in Pakistan in January 2022. Pakistan’s internet penetration rate stood at 36.5 percent of the total population at the start of 2022.
Kepios analysis indicates that internet users in Pakistan increased by 22 million (+35.9 percent) between 2021 and 2022.
For perspective, these user figures reveal that 144.4 million people in Pakistan did not use the internet at the start of 2022, meaning that 63.5 percent of the population remained offline at the beginning of the year.