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TV White Spaces trial launches in South Africa

White spaces are unused channels in the broadcast TV spectrum. They offer the potential to improve Internet connectivity where they are most needed - in the developing world. Today we’re announcing the launch of a trial with ten schools in the Cape Town area, which will receive wireless broadband over a white space network.

White space has the advantage that low frequency signals can travel longer distances. The technology is well suited to provide low cost connectivity to rural communities with poor telecommunications infrastructure, and for expanding coverage of wireless broadband in densely populated urban areas.

Google supported its first white space trial in the US in 2010, and recently launched its spectrum database for 45 day public comment period with the FCC. In October 2011, we hosted a workshop in Johannesburg, along with partners, at which the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) lent support for an industry-led white spaces trial in South Africa. We then worked together with the CSIR Meraka InstituteTertiary Education and Research Network of South Africae-Schools Network, the Wireless Access Providers’ AssociationComsol Wireless SolutionsCarlson Wireless, and Neul to take up the challenge.

The service will be broadcast from three base stations located at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in Tygerberg, Cape Town. Ten schools in the Cape Town area will receive wireless broadband to test the technology. During the trial, we will attempt to show that broadband can be offered over white spaces without interfering with licensed spectrum holders. To prevent interference with other channels, the network uses Google’s spectrum database to determine white space availability. To confirm results, the CSIR Meraka Institute will take spectrum measurements and frequently report back to ICASA and the local broadcasters.

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. 

To read more about the trial background, visit TENET’s website. 

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