ISLAMABAD: The Universal Service Fund (USF) is set to launch a fibre-optic project for Gwadar to bring 4G compatible high speed internet and telecom services to the region. The project is expected to be completed by the middle of next year.

The USF has finalised paperwork for several projects, including 400km fibre-optic project in Gwadar and 4G services in the Loralai area of Balochistan, apart from upgrading data services to 4G in Vehari, Lodhran, Sialkot, Narowal, Nankan Sahib and Sheikhpura of Punjab.

Sources in the Ministry of Information Technology said all these projects were in the process of finalisation and would start work after getting approvals from the USF board. “Tentative date to start these projects is set for the last week of June and will be completed in 12-18 months,” the official said.

Apart from residential and commercial districts, the USF has an extensive plan to cover the national road arteries. The project regarding IT and telecom services on 309km Faisalabad-Multan M4 Motorway is also likely to be launched next month.

About the highways and motorways project, Minister for IT and Telecom Syed Aminul Haque told Dawn that USF’s motorways and national highways programme had achieved broadband coverage on more than 1,929km of unserved road segments across the country.

“We are committed to providing uninterrupted mobile network on all major highways of the country because it enhances safe travel, improves the local economy and eventually boosts the IT and telecom sector,” the minister said.

He added that infrastructure development for uninterrupted high speed mobile broadband services was essential on national highways as it was one of the prerequisites for the country to launch 5G service in future.

The USF projects on Lahore-Abdul Hakeem M3 Motorway and 392km Multan-Sukkur M5 Motor­way will be completed by the end of this year.

Makran coastal highway and NH 50-70 in Balochistan have already been covered with telecom services, but work on some part of N-25 (RCD Highway) and N65 (Quetta-Jacobabad Highway) has stalled due to local political issues and the authorities were not giving NOC to install telecom towers.

Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary, the Chief Executive Officer of USF, said the notables of the area, including elected representatives of Balochistan, had been approached to help resolve the matter so that all mainstream highways could be provided coverage.

The upcoming projects of the USF included powering of telecommunication site through solar energy, especially in remote areas where the supply of fuel to power generation is difficult.

Since 2018, the USF has launched 56 projects amounting to more than Rs52 billion for providing optic-fibre cable and broadband services across the country.

The USF is a subsidiary of the IT ministry tasked with expanding internet and telecom services to remote areas of the country where telecom companies and internet service providers do not enter as such areas are not commercially viable.

The fund consists of 1.5 per cent of adjusted revenues of telecom operators and various contracts for development of IT and telecom infrastructures are awarded through auction and the amount is paid from the fund.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2022

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