Google trialling white spaces in Africa

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
04 Apr 2013

The latest effort is in South Africa, where Google has kicked off a test program designed to showcase the potential of this technology and encourage the regulator to follow the US's FCC into greenlighting use of this spectrum. The trial uses the frequencies to bring wireless broadband to 10 schools in the Cape Town area.

The main aim of the trial is to demonstrate that wireless communications can be run in this spectrum without interfering with licensed users already in the band. Google hopes the regulator will be interested in the potential of the low frequency spectrum, which support long range signals and strong indoor penetration, to bring broadband to South Africa's rural areas.

“White space has the advantage that low frequency signals can travel longer distances,” Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, public policy manager for Google South Africa, wrote in a company blog post.

“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. White space technology is gaining momentum around the world. We hope the results of the trial will drive similar regulatory developments in South Africa and other African countries.”

Microsoft also recently announced trials in the white spaces in Kenya. The US is setting the blueprint for safe use of the white spaces, insisting on databases to identify available frequencies, and on various interference avoidance techniques. One of the databases is operated by Google, raising issues over how far the search giant is asserting control of the emerging wireless broadband platform. The main focus there has been on rural access using the 802.22 standard or “Super Wi-Fi” but other trials, including some in the UK backed by Microsoft, have also used the spaces for smart grid applications.

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