The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has awarded a grant to support an Adaptrum-led project, with a view to improving internet access to rural areas of South Africa. The grant from USTDA, which focuses on facilitating export opportunities for U.S. companies in support of sustainable development projects across the globe, will fund several TV White Space (TVWS) deployments with the goal of establishing business and deployment models that can be replicated across the country.
TVWS projects utilise unused spectrums of inactive channels (known as :buffer channels”) to provide high-speed broadband internet to homes. In the past, buffer channels were placed between active TV channels to protect broadcasts from interference. Recent developments in technology and research have proven that the unused spectrum of buffer channels can be used to provide broadband internet access, while operating harmoniously with surrounding TV channels.
As the first country in Africa to publish a TVWS regulatory framework, South Africa has long spotted the potential for the technology to bridge the nation’s digital divide. Encompassing an unreached population of more than 20 million people in rural areas and difficult-to-reach terrains, South Africa is an ideal location for TVWS, which uses unused broadcast spectrum to deliver long-range wireless connectivity. The project is intended to demonstrate that TVWS is a feasible business solution which could connect rural South Africa to the rest of the country, from an economic perspective.
“Since deploying the first TVWS system in Africa, Adaptrum has sought ways to use TVWS to bring much-needed connectivity across Africa,” said Haiyun Tang, CEO of Adaptrum. “Now that TVWS is allowed in South Africa, we are extremely pleased to have the support of USTDA for this project to ensure that our technology can be deployed affordably and sustainably by our local South African partners.”
The Adaptrum-led project team is a consortium of U.S and South African partners, including Microsoft, International Data Corporation and Project Isizwe. The consortium will collaborate with the grant recipient – the Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA) – to deploy three TVWS network builds and develop a business plan to help ISPs and their investors understand and take advantage of commercial opportunities with TVWS.
“The support from USTDA today validates what we’ve seen in South Africa and many other locations. TVWS is a valuable and important technology for enabling affordable and reliable connectivity,” said Kevin Connolly, Director of Airband International at Microsoft. “Microsoft works with hardware partners like Adaptrum and investment partners like USTDA to accelerate the bringing of connectivity to millions of people around the globe who lack internet access, and we’re excited to bring this work to fruition in South Africa today.”
Once a successful business model is established, additional TVWS projects across South Africa and in other areas of Southern and Eastern Africa can be developed, bringing much-needed connectivity investment opportunities to the continent by tackling issues such as the cost of infrastructure needed to reach the rural poor.