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        TV White Spaces to bring affordable

        internet to rural communities

          To connect the rural unconnected to affordable internet is not so much a technical problem but
          more one of economics. For the large mobile operators, it is of no economic value to connect

          people who live away from the main rural highways in sparsely populated areas, even as a loss-
          leader project. TV WhiteSpace technology is the way forward.

             echnologically speaking, internet connectivity on TV White Spaces is not much of
             a challenge. Using TV space (TVWS) in the 470-694 MHz frequency band on a
        Tsecondary basis, (excluding radio astronomy sub-band 606 MHz to 610MHz) has
        proved to be an excellent technical solution.
           While technical trials have been carried out in the Western Cape and Limpopo, the
        commercial and economic aspects were not investigated until two years ago, when the
        Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA) embarked on a large-scale commercial
        trial in association with a consortium consisting of the following: South African and
        US partners including Stadia Capital, Adaptrum, International Data Corporation (IDC),
        Microsoft, Project Isizwe and the United States Trade Development Agency (USTDA).
        The project, which aimed to demonstrate the technical, socio-economic and commercial
        benefits of TVWS, will end this month with the publication of the TVWS GSLD by ICASA
        and a paper by the IDC a few months later. “The trial was very successful and has
        attracted wide interest from wireless internet service providers”, WAPA executive member
        and project manager, Paul Colmer told EngineerIT in an exclusive interview.

        The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) provided $1 million to kick-start the   Paul Colmer, WAPA executive and
        project. The purpose of the study was to demonstrate TVWS as a commercially relevant   project manger
        and optimal solution for connecting rural South Africa. The end result of the feasibility study
        will be documented into a technical analysis, a financial feasibility study and an executive
        paper which will show the following findings of the main elements of the commercial trial   Expected development impacts
        and study:                                                                The impact would be to provide at
        •  the population density TVWS is best suited to serve.                   least 1 GB of data per person per
        •  the topology best suited to using TVWS.                                month or uncapped access at a very
        •  the average revenue per user which can be safely assumed once connectivity is in place.  affordable charge.
        •  the predicted return on investment periods.                              “We live in an unjust and unfair
                                                                                  society,” Colmer said. “Low income
        “The IDC paper is expected to be published by the end of July 2021 and will be made   groups pay the highest price for data
        available to all members of WAPA,” Colmer said.                           because they can only afford to buy
                                                                                  small pay-as-you-go packages, yet they
        TVWS have many advantages over the 2 and 5 GHz bands                      need it most. Their average cost of data
        The key advantage of TVWS deployment is that the signal coverage can reach up to a   is between R400 and R600 per Gig,
        10 km radius from the base station without the requirement of line-of-sight. This makes   while higher income groups pay as little
        it ideal for connecting people living in the rural undulating hills of KwaZulu-Natal and the   as R2 – R3 per Gig.
        Eastern Cape, as well as areas in other provinces where there is poor existing backhaul   We are a long way off the ITU call for
        infrastructure. Each TVWS base station was connected at a bandwidth of 20 Mbps with   bridging the digital divide and the creation
        a total of 30 WiFi hotspots. The hotspots are scattered within walking distance of each   of a digitally inclusive society. I believe
        citizen of the trial area.                                                that with the implementation of TVWS,
           After the trial, WSIPS in South Africa will have the opportunity to deploy as many   rural communities will get access to
        as 1600 such base stations, reaching 50 000 hot spots servicing a potential 13 million   affordable internet within walking distance
        rural citizens.                                                           of their homes.

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