BY EMEKA AGINAM
At the ongoing Dynamic Spectrum Alliance Global Summit holding in Accra, Microsoft has announced new TV white space partnerships and projects on four continents, including its newest partnership with SpectraLink Wireless and Facebook to provide low-cost wireless connectivity to students and faculty at universities in Koforidua, Ghana.
The pilot is part of Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative to help improve the continent’s global competitiveness.
A core goal of the 4Afrika Initiative is to facilitate access to technology for the masses and to empower African students, entrepreneurs, developers, and others to become even more active global citizens.
Before now, Microsoft globally is now involved in white spaces pilots in 10 countries.
However, TV white spaces, the unused portions of wireless spectrum in the frequency bands generally set aside for television transmissions, can be utilized for a range of applications including:providing low-cost connectivity;connecting rural areas to broadband, improving in-building wireless networks, creating hotspots for Internet access; andoffloading mobile traffic.
With this development, Microsoft’s commercial partnership with SpectraLink Wireless and research partnership with Facebook will deploy wireless networks covering entire campuses at All Nations University College and Koforidua Polytechnic.
For students and faculty at the universities, access to the network will be coupled with productivity and communications applications as well as Internet-enabled devices.
The networks will use TV white space-enabled radios and other wireless technologies to connect campus buildings, as well as off-campus hostels where students live, to ensure they have access to fast broadband.
The project is operating under a TV white space pilot license granted by the Ghana National Communications Authority and is the only TV white space license currently issued in West Africa.
Facebook’s main involvement in the project will be to collaborate with Microsoft and SpectraLink Wireless on joint technology research to better understand how TV white space spectrum and equipment can support wireless Internet users today.
These efforts will be led by Facebook’s Connectivity Lab team who are working on new technologies to support Internet.org’s mission to make internet access available to the two thirds of the world not yet connected.
Facebook, Microsoft, and SpectraLink Wireless have a like-minded view that a more abundant supply and flexible use of spectrum are important aspects to affordably connect more people to the Internet, and the companies plan to collaborate on the policy front.
All three companies involved in this pilot project are also members of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance a global, cross-industry alliance focused on increasing dynamic access to unused radio frequencies.
“TV white spaces technology when combined with other low-cost wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi, offers a substantial opportunity for businesses, consumers and governments around the world to improve the economics of broadband network deployment and service delivery,” Paul Garnett, Director in Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group, said, adding that, “Through these projects worldwide, we are working with local private and public sector partners to enable new consumer experiences, while encouraging governments to make needed legal and regulatory changes to allow this technology to be deployed more broadly.”
“This project will provide substantial benefit to students and faculty at the universities,” John Sarpong, Chief Executive Officer of SpectraLink Wireless, said., adding that, “Until now, students at these universities have not had consistent access to fast broadband, which is key to students’ ability to access information and learning resources online and compete in the 21st century economy.
With SpectraLink Wireless’ Edutech-as-a-Service platform students and faculty will have access to the best productivity applications on the market and Internet access at true broadband speeds. All at a low cost per user per month. We look forward to rolling this out in Koforidua and the rest of the country.”
For one thing, Africa is not the only region where the company’s white spaces pilots are flourishing. In Asia, Microsoft has helped to pioneer white spaces pilots in Singapore and the Philippines.
Last week, Microsoft was announced as a founding member of Taiwan’s Dynamic Spectrum Access Pilot Group which aims to contribute to the creation and development of a world-leading dynamic spectrum access ecosystem in Taiwan, leveraging Taiwan’s tremendous capabilities in semiconductor design and fabrication, component and devices manufacturing, and systems integration and solutions. The group includes leading Taiwanese companies, academic and research institutions, as well as Mediatek, the Communications Research Center at the National Taiwan University, and the Taiwan Institute for Information Industry. All are members of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance as well. The group will conduct pilot projects in Taiwan for both rural broadband access and Internet of Things (IoT) applications, such as Smart Grid, using TV white space radios.
In Latin America, Microsoft is involved in the region’s first white spaces pilot in Uruguay, where the company is providing technical support to Plan Ceibal, an initiative supporting the integration of information and communications technologies into the country’s public education system. Plan Ceibal will use TV white space technology provided by Dynamic Spectrum Alliance member 6Harmonics to provide broadband access to ten rural schools.
Finally, in the UK, Microsoft is working with Ofcom and other partners on a pilot in Glasgow. This will play a key role in providing data to inform Ofcom’s legislative proposals for TV white spaces. The pilot is being led by the Centre for White Space Communications at the University of Strathclyde with support from the Scottish Government’s Demonstrating Digital programme, and will use TV white space radios to enable Wi-Fi hotspots and webcam image backhaul at various outdoor locations within the university’s city center campus.