Google have revealed their intentions of taking over unused TV ‘white space’ in Africa as a means of delivering broadband to ‘schools and rural areas’, following Microsoft’s lead in finding new purpose for ‘TVWS’ in a new project.
While Microsoft have been operating a similar scheme in Kenya, Google’s focus on the idea takes place in South Africa, more specifically the city of Cape Town, with the proposal of working from the nearby town of Stellenbosch (notable for providing free Wi-Fi to citizens), and using the local TVWS to bring ‘low-cost internet’ to up to 10 nearby schools within a 10km radius of their base. TVWS (TV White Space) is recognised as the space between channels on a broadcast spectrum not used by networks in local areas.
The development would see the schools (selected from their quality of local IT support, amongst other factors) experience estimated broadband speeds of 2.5Mbps, receiving the signal from Google’s 3 ‘base stations’ in Stellenbosch, working alongside the programme partners ’TENET (Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa).
For Google’s experiment, they have set out the goals of creating ‘affordable broadband technology’ that does not interfere with TV signals on local spectrums, as well as ‘increasing awareness of TVWS’ throughout South Africa and the continent as a whole.
Google claim that they have a formal system of measurement in place to ensure that the former remains in-check and manageable, while noting that TVWS is a system that is potentially ideal for delivering broadband to rural areas around the world, along with ‘densely populated’ urban settlements that have a ‘poor telecommunications infrastructure’, noting the benefits of a low-frequency signal over ‘a great distance’.
The official Google Africa blog noted of the work being done around the world with TVWS trials, writing: “White Space technology is gaining momentum around the world. In the US, it is already available for licensed exempt uses. In the UK, regulator Ofcom is working on a model regulatory framework based on a licence-exempt or ‘managed access’ use of television white spaces spectrum. We hope the results of the trial will drive similar regulatory developments in South Africa and other African countries.”
The search engine and internet giant summarised their involvement in the project through Google South Africa ‘country manager’ Luke McKend: “We are pleased to be part of this exciting new development – the first of its kind in South Africa – and look forward to opening discussions with policy makers around a regulatory framework that will support the wider use of TVWS to deliver wireless broadband Internet across the country.”