ISLAMABAD: Efforts have been under way to ensure that highways and motorways across the country have uninterrupted coverage of telecom and broadband services by the end of next year, it emerged on Tuesday.
At a recent briefing about progress over the past three years on projects to provide telecom coverage in unserved patches of the national highways (NH) and motorways (M), Minister for Information Technology and Telecom Syed Aminul Haq was informed that telecom coverage had been provided along the 701km-long NH-10 and NH-25 covering Lasbela, Awaran,Gwadar and Kech.
Also, work on provision of telecom services along the 650km NH-25 and NH-65 passing through the areas of Lasbela, Khuzdar, Mustung, Kalat, Quetta, Jaffarabad, Nasirabad and Sibi districts was near completion, the minister was told. Similarly, a project to extend the services along the 450km NH-50 and NH-70 passing through Pishin, Qilla Saifullah, Zhob, Sherani, Loralai, Musakhel and Barkhan districts would also be completed soon, it was disclosed during the briefing.
Haris Mehmood, chief executive of Universal Support Fund (USF), apprised the minister that several projects, including telecom coverage of Lahore-Abdul Hakim Motorway (M3) that passes through Sheikhupura, Nankana Sahib, Faisalabad, Toba Tek Singh and Kamalia would be completed by December 2022. Similarly, he said, the Multan-Sukkur Motorway (M5) that passes through Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Kashmore and Ghotki districts would have uninterrupted voice and broadband service by the end of next year.
Such projects in Balochistan near completion, IT minister told
The USF is scheduled to award a contract in March 2022 for providing telecom services along the Turbat-Gwadar Motorway (M8) and Hakla-Dera Ismail Khan Motorway covering Rawalpindi, Attock, Chakwal, Mianwali, Lakki Marwat and D.I. Khan.
The minister was informed that during the past three years the USF awarded contracts to cover those 1,800km segments of the highways and motorways where telecom services were unavailable.
The USF chief executive said the National Highway Authority as well as companies providing mobile phone services had been asked to give details of the areas on national highways which were still without telecom coverage.
Roaming on digital highways
Mr Mehmood said digital highways were the key drivers to economic prosperity and social inclusion as well as promoting tourism in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“Digital highways are the future to economic development and it is critical to understand the role they play in reshaping the country’s digital communication infrastructure, opening avenues which will consequently foster economic growth,” he added.
He also pointed out that the USF was in talks with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to introduce the unique feature of “National Roaming” on the motorways and highways, where the subscribed network of a commuter would shift to another network in case of unavailability of the subscribed network in that particular area to ensure uninterrupted services.
At the briefing, the minister asked the officials concerned to ensure early identification of all ‘telecom black holes’ on the highways and motorways to bring them into the network. Connectivity of the motorways and highways was beneficial not only for ensuring safety of commuters but also for general uplift of the area residents, he said.
Stressing the need for expediting work on all motorways digitisation projects for their timely completion, the minister said “digitisation” was the key to achieving the targets of the Digital Pakistan initiative and was essential for the growth of Pakistan’s economy and uplift of the socioeconomic well-being of people across the country.
Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2021