The Universal Service Fund (USF) Board approved an award of 10 contracts worth Rs. 21 billion for connectivity of the un-served and under-served communities of Baluchistan, Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) provinces. The high-speed mobile broadband projects, highways and motorways projects and optical fiber cable (OFC) projects will provide 4G LTE connectivity and backhaul connectivity to approx. 3.5 million people by connecting 187 Union Councils (UCs) with 1,554 km of OFC and providing seamless connectivity to 622 km of unserved road segments on the M-8 motorway and N-35 highway. The Additional Secretary (Incharge) for Ministry of Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunication and Chairman USF Board, Mohsin Mushtaq Chandna chaired the Board of Directors meeting of USF, said a news release issued here on Saturday. While congratulating the USF Board on the launch of 10 projects, the Federal Minister for Ministry of IT and Telecommunication, Syed Amin Ul Haque, in his message, said, “Ministry of IT and Telecommunication through USF has taken another concrete step to fulfil the vision of Digital Pakistan. We are on the path of ‘Meaningful Connectivity and Smart Phone for All Policy’. These projects will enhance social equality, employment opportunities, and digital literacy for people in the un-served and underserved areas and strengthen the foundations of our digital infrastructure. I am proud to say that we are the frontrunner in creating information-rich communities and accelerating socio-economic growth in the country.” While addressing the meeting, Additional Secretary (Incharge) of Ministry of IT and Telecommunication & Chairman of USF Board, Mohsin Mushtaq Chandna said, “Under the leadership of Federal Minister, Syed Amin Ul Haque, USF has delivered a record productive performance in the past 4 years by contracting 79 projects worth approximately Rs. 62.7 billion in subsidy. This is a testament to our absolute commitment to improving the lives and the livelihoods of the unserved and underserved communities of Pakistan.” He also highlighted the importance of infrastructure, affordability, and accessibility of the internet and pledged to work with all stakeholders to achieve the vision of Digital Pakistan. The Chief Executive Officer of USF, Haaris Mahmood Chaudhary apprised the Board members of the progress of the current projects and the restoration of the flood-affected USF network and said, “These projects will empower around 3.3 million people living in far-flung and backward areas across Pakistan, enabling them to access e-services across various spheres, ranging from financial services like banking and loans to accessibility towards various government services and benefits.” According to the details, the Board approved the award of 5 high-speed mobile broadband contracts worth approximately Rs. over 7.1 billion for providing 4G LTE services in the rural and remote districts of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. These projects will benefit people living in 262 unserved muazas of Dera Ghazi Khan, Layyah, Muzaffargarh, Multan and Rajanpur districts in Punjab; Jamshoro in Sindh; and Barkhan, Musakhel, Sherani and Sibi in Balochistan; thereby covering an approximate unserved area of 12,784.91 sq. km. Furthermore, the Board also approved the award of two high-speed mobile broadband projects for National Highways and Motorways worth approx. Rs. 6 billion for providing 4G LTE services to commuters on unserved road segments of 622.68 km on the M-8 motorway and N-35 highway respectively. Similarly, the USF Board also approved the award of three OFC projects worth approximately Rs. 7.7 billion for providing backhaul connectivity to 187 Union Councils (UCs) of Punjab and KPK. Under these projects, USF will deploy a total of 1,554 km of OFC that will benefit over 3.3 million people in the districts of Attock, Sheikhupura and Nankana Sahib in Punjab and Banuu and Lakki Marwat in KPK. These projects are designed to connect 684 educational institutions, 223 government offices and 268 health institutions along with mandatory connectivity of 408 BTS towers. Board members comprising Maj. Gen (R) Amir Azeem Bajwa, Chairman-PTA; Irfan Wahab Khan, CEO-Telenor; Muhamad Omar Malik, Member- Telecom, Ministry of IT and Telecommunication; Kaukab Iqbal, Chairman-Consumer Association of Pakistan; Imran Akhtar Shah, VP- Super Net Pvt Ltd and senior management of USF also attended the meeting.