Rebecca Hawkes | 30-07-2013
Microsoft has launched a new TV white spaces trial in the northern South African province of Limpopo, to add to its existing trials in Kenya and Tanzania, and similar to those being undertaken by Google in Cape Town.
This latest pilot, part of Microsoft's 4Afrika initiative, is being conducted in conjunction with the University of Limpopo's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and local network builder Multisource.
White spaces are unused frequencies for television broadcasters to deliver wireless Internet services over ranges of up to 5.4km. The Limpopo project will use TV white spaces and solar-powered base stations to provide wireless broadband access to five secondary schools in remote parts of the province, using the university as a hub for a white space network deployment to also connect nearby schools.
"Reducing the cost of broadband access means millions more South Africans will get online. This will create new opportunities for education, healthcare, commerce and the delivery of Government services across the country," said Mteto Nyati, managing director, Microsoft SA.
The South African Government wants 80% of its citizens to have broadband access by 2020, though they have yet to agree to the re-use of radio spectrum for this experimental technology. Microsoft and Google will thus be hoping their pilots persuade South African regulators to allow the legal use of TV white spaces for broadband purposes.
Microsoft is predicting white space connectivity of up to 4Mbps at a cost of between 20-50 rand ($2.04-$5.10) a month, according to A ZDNet report, which is around ten times less than the existing 1Mbps broadband connection cost.