South African telecoms start-up AfriCanopy is looking to roll out low-cost broadband to rural communities using TV white space. The group has announced that the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) approved its plans to roll out a broadband trial, using TV white spaces, to residents of the King Cetshwayo municipality in the Richards Bay area of KwaZulu-Natal.
Television white spaces (TVWS) refer to unused frequencies in the wireless spectrum between TV broadcasts that can be utilised to provide broadband. This will increase once SA finally migrates from analogue to digital terrestrial television.
In April ICASA published the final regulations on the use of TV white space, but commercial deployment of the technology was still unknown at the time. African nations have over the years been criticised by advocates of TVWS frequencies for under-utilising the technology that can improve Internet access on the continent.
AfriCanopy claims to be the first company that ICASA has authorised to begin a commercial trial with TVWS devices. The trial, which is scheduled to last eight months, is expected to bring affordable broadband to some 85 000 King Cetshwayo municipality residents, while providing free Internet access to around 50 rural schools across the region.
AfriCanopy is in the process of raising funds to carry out this trial. The company hopes to raise R32 million to fund the programme. The AfriCanopy team are currently conducting negotiations with both private and public backers, including the KZN’s department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs.
“We are delighted by the ICASA decision, and look forward to pioneering the provision of high-speed, low-cost broadband services to our rural communities. We believe that broadband coverage should be available to everyone in South Africa – including previously excluded rural communities,” says Samora Xorile, AfriCanopy’s founder and majority shareholder.
AfriCanopy plans to begin the trial after securing funding and estimates that it will be able to do so by the first quarter of 2019.
AfriCanopy says the rollout will also see the creation of 400 new jobs in the region as local entrepreneurs will be equipped with ‘Business-in-a-Box’ kits that include solar power supplies, Wi-Fi devices and TVWS equipment enabling them to sell airtime, data and cellular charging services to customers at much lower prices than are currently available.
We believe that broadband coverage should be available to everyone in South Africa – including previously excluded rural communities. — Samora Xorile, AfriCanopy’s founder and majority shareholder.
AfriCanopy will also provide these telecoms entrepreneurs with all the technical and business training needed to make a success of their new revenue-generating opportunities, which it believes will, in turn, contribute to the economic wellbeing of the wider municipality.
“If successful, this new technology could then be rolled out in other Internet-starved rural areas across South Africa,” the company says in a statement. “The unique selling point of TVWS is that it uses those portions of the UHF terrestrial television spectrum that are not used by broadcasters to transmit voice and data cheaper, and over greater distances than cellular frequencies,” it adds.
Source: IT Web