North Waziristan, parts of Khyber, Mohmand and Bajaur agencies are likely to get mobile and internet services with the help of Universal Service Fund(USF), under the IT ministry.

The project will be implemented right after security forces have completed counter-insurgency operation, a Senate body was told yesterday.

The committee was presided by PPP Senator Robina Khalid and was meeting for a briefing on completed and new projects, funding, mobile services in tribal areas and future USF initiatives.

Fresh surveys are required to assess communication sector needs in the Khyber, Mohmand and Bajaur agencies.

“Due to the security situation, the little connectivity in Bajaur has also been suspended indefinitely. After the operations, the populations in these regions have relocated and another assessment has to be done to see what the new requirements are. We are all set to begin as soon as we have the security clearance,” Mr. Kamal(USF) said.

It is the compulsion on USF to spend 1.5% of the charges collected from cellular mobile operators to provide mobile and broadband facilities such as 3G and 4G services in far-flung areas that are under-served or unserved.

Last year, USF has given the bid to Pak Telecom Mobile Limited to install broadband coverage in FR Kohat, FR Peshawar, Kohat, Karak, and Hangu.

The committee was told that in the last 10 years, USF has committed Rs. 57 billion of which Rs. 41 billion have been used for numerous projects to connect remote cities, towns, and villages with telecom services.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (F) Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri drew the IT ministry’s attention to his area, Kalat, where internet services have been suspended for the last six or eight months.

“Security forces are not conducting operations there, then why have services been suspended,” the senator inquired.

According to IT ministry member Mudassar Hussain, internet services were suspended on the request of security forces to maintain law and order, which is a common exercise.

Mobile services in tribal areas will connect the area with the world and it will have long-run benefits. USF is installing optical fiber cable in KPK and has also planned next-generation broadband infrastructure for un-served and under-served segments on motorways and national highways.