The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) aims to provide for quality and affordable mobile and digital services across the rural and remote areas of the country; allowing non-discriminatory access to mobile and network services along with equitable access to knowledge and information dissemination, leading to rapid socio-economic development with improved standard of living.
The Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund is headed by the Administrator, USO Fund who is appointed by the Central Government, for the administration of the fund. It is an attached office of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Ministry of Communications.
Genesis of Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)
The genesis of USOF is almost 200 years old, with the concept of Universal Service Obligation having been introduced by Rowland Hill in 1837 with his postal reforms. The postal reforms included uniform rates across the United Kingdoms (UK) and prepayment by sender via postage stamps. Universal Service was the key objective of the Universal Postal Union.
In India, the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund was established initially with the fundamental objective of providing access to "Basic" telegraph services to people in remote and rural areas at affordable and reasonable prices. Subsequently, the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Act, 2006 was notified on 29.12.2006 to repeal the term "Basic" wherein the scope of USO Fund was widened to provide access to telegraph services (including mobile services, broadband connectivity and ICT infrastructure creation) in rural and remote areas.
Functions of Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)
Broadly, the functions of USOF are as illustrated & outlined:
Telecom Technology Development Fund (TTDF)
USOF officially launched Telecom Technology Development Fund (TTDF) Scheme on October 01st, 2022. TTDF Scheme is aimed for domestic companies and institutions involved in technology design, development, commercialization of telecommunication products and solutions, to enable affordable broadband and mobile services in rural and remote areas. This initiative helps to connect schools with varied volunteers from the Indian Diaspora namely, young professionals, retired teachers, retired Government officials, retired professionals, NGOs, Private Sector and Public Sector Companies, Corporate Institutions and many others.
Under the scheme, USOF is also targeting to develop standards to meet countrywide requirements and create the ecosystem for research, design, prototyping, use cases, pilots, and proof of concept testing, among others. The scheme entails grants to Indian entities to encourage and induct indigenous technologies tailor-made to meet domestic needs.
The Call for proposals for the TTDF is open from October 01st, 2022.