Google to Spearhead TV White Spaces Trial in South Africa

Google has announced a project to supply 10 schools in the Cape Town area with wireless broadband. The project plans to use TV White Spaces which are unused parts of the broadcast TV spectrum. White spaces are seen to have the potential to provide low cost connectivity to densely populated urban areas and rural communities. The technology allows low frequency signals to travel over longer distances.

According to the Google Africa Blog, in a workshop hosted by Google among other partners in Johannesburg, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) lent support for an industry-led white spaces trial in the country. Google then formed a partnership with CSIR Meraka Institute, Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa, e-Schools Network, the Wireless Access Providers’ Association, Comsol Wireless Solutions, Carlson Wireless, and Neul to utilize the technology to supply low cost broadband.

Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in Tygerberg, Cape Town will host 3 base stations that will broadcast the service to the 10 schools. To prevent interference with other channels, the network uses Google’s spectrum database to determine white space availability. The CSIR Meraka Institute will take spectrum measurements to confirm the results and make a regular report back to ICASA and the local broadcasters.

The results of these trials are expected to drive regulatory development of white space in South Africa and other African countries. Already white spaces are available to licensed exempt uses in the US and UK’s Ofcom has a regulatory framework in the works on licence exempt use of the technology.

In Kenya, an initiative by Microsoft, the Ministry of Information and Communications and an Internet Service Provider, Indigo seeks to use white spaces to bring broadband internet to five locations including a healthcare clinic, a primary school, two secondary schools and a community center. The initial installation will be in Kalema, Kenya starting with a base station and a connection to the Government of Kenya’s agricultural extension office. Fourteen additional locations are expected to be added to the network, serving up to 6,000 people.