Since 2006–2007, the Universal Service Fund (USF) has spent over Rs. 93 billion, although 15% of the country’s population still lacks access to mobile and telecom services.
According to official sources, several regions in Balochistan and parts in the formerly Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are still without basic telephone and mobile internet connections.
In order to extend cellular, broadband internet, fibre optic, and other communications services to underserved or unserved areas, the fund was established in 2007. Every telecom company has been giving the fund 1.5 percent of its earnings. Before USF was introduced in 2006–2007, the percentage of telecommunications coverage was around 44%.
According to official records, USF has already spent Rs. 92.797 billion expanding communications services to underserved and unserved regions of the nation.
Despite tremendous expansion, many locations, according to USF authorities, are still underserved. They said that the USF encountered difficulties such as rough terrain, a small population, severe weather, a lack of energy, no backhaul, inadequate logistics, and security clearance. The government funds programmes so that telecom carriers can reach the underserved and unserved in places where their business models are unviable.
According to documents, of the total Rs. 92.797 billion subsidies, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) took a major chunk of Rs. 25.975 billion (28 percent), Ufone Rs. 22.174 billion (23.90 percent), Telenor Rs. 22.947 billion (24.73 percent), Zong Rs.5.637 billion (6.07 percent), Wateen Rs. 4.847 (5.22 percent), World Call Rs.1.273 billion (1.37 percent), Jazz Rs.4.833 million (5.21 percent) and Nayatel Rs3.314 billion (3.57 percent).
According to a representative of the USF, the “Broadband for Sustainable Development” initiative aims to bring telecom services to underserved Mauzas around the nation. This programme has been revised to incorporate broadband comparable data (internet) services as a required component when the federal government issued 3G/4G licences.
A component of each new project was using solar energy to power the telecommunications stations. 12,825 mauzas have been covered, and 1,699 base transceiver stations (BTS) have been put in place.
Another USF project, the optic fibre programme, intends to support the growth of telecommunications services in underserved and unserviced rural regions to provide basic data and phone services that are both inexpensive and accessible. This calls for the development of a strong and dependable optic fibre network across the whole nation. In order to fulfil the expanding demand for voice, data, and video in these locations, this project intends to bring optic fibre access to the underserved Tehsil headquarters.
The telecom service providers can expand all types of telecom services to those locations by adding fibre connections to tehsils. It is comparable to creating information superhighways for all tehsils. In accordance with this initiative, 56 tehsils and 26 towns have been connected, and 6,447 kilometres of optic fibre have been laid.
A number of initiatives have been launched under specific projects, including ICTs for girls, the construction of 13 computer laboratories in certain institutions, the opening of telecenters, the ability for people with impairments to access telecom services, and telemedicine network end services.