American Tech Giants Collaberate with Africa to Develop TV White Spaces

TV Whites Spaces (TVWS) are portions of the broadcast spectrum that, depending on your perspective, either are valuable unused frequencies or are usefully buffering against adjacent channel interference. The potential for TVWS to deliver wireless services is a major controversy in the United States between the wireless community and the broadcast community. Microsoft and Google are both using Africa to demonstrate the viability of delivering connectivity via TVWS with projects launched in early 2013. Microsoft launched another white spaces project in late 2013.

Microsoft's project is "…a public-private collaboration that will deliver low-cost, off-the-grid wireless broadband access to previously unserved locations in rural Kenya—and will do it with the help of solar power…the project will rely on solar energy to power base stations and towers that will provide broadband coverage to this area. In addition, solar will be installed at local schools to power Information & Communication Technology (ICT) labs. Each school will receive seven square meter solar panels that will produce approximately 4.5 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy per day, which is expected to provide a slight surplus of power above what is required for the ICT lab. The power delivered to the ICT labs will enable students to use tablets and eReaders that previously wouldn’t have been practical without access to power or broadband." The broadband will be delivered through TVWS using new long-distance wireless protocols sometimes called 'super Wi-Fi'. The project is called Mawingo and is part of Microsoft's 4Afrika project.

Google's project in South Africa does not seem to be focusing on energy sustainability to the same extent. The Google press release is aimed squarely at the American controversy. Google's African partner, the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa (TENET), also seems very focused on disproving interference concerns, calling the project the "The Cape Town TV White Spaces Trial". "The TVWS network will consist of multiple base stations located at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in Tygerburg, Cape Town, which will deliver broadband Internet service to ten schools within a 10 kilometer radius. The ten schools have been pre-selected based on proximity to the base station, local IT and network support, and other connectivity requirements...The purpose of the trial is to establish whether interference is caused..."

The latest Microsoft 4Afrika partnership is in Namibia. Local non-profit MyDigitalBridge Foundation announced in December 2013 that it "...and the Millennium Challenge Account Namibia, with the support of Microsoft and the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia, today introduced a pilot project called Citizen Connect, designed to bring broadband access to the people of Namibia. The pilot uses white spaces technology to deliver high-speed and affordable internet access through unused television frequency, providing critical access to technology in remote and disadvantaged areas...The TV white spaces network in Namibia is expected to come online in the first half of 2014, connecting 34 schools and school circuit offices across the Ohangwena, Omusati and Oshana regions. The network will enable these schools to have affordable access to high-speed broadband for the first time, allowing them access to a broad variety of content and rich online services such." We've reached out to MyDigitalBridge to identify any Green ICT components in Citizen Connect.

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Microsoft and Green ICT
Google and Green ICT