Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

Digital Inclusion

TV white spaces can help connect SA's underserved – CSIR

Article Image
Television white spaces (TVWS) is an ideal technology for delivering long-range affordable broadband wireless Internet connectivity to underserved, unserved and hard-to-reach rural and township communities.

That's the view of Dr. Luzango Mfupe, principal researcher and TVWS project leader for South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Mfupe told Connecting Africa in an interview that TVWS can offer Internet speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s and can also enable deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) networks and applications.

"TVWS is important for Internet adoption in South Africa due to its superior radio propagation characteristics that enables the communication signals to penetrate through man-made and natural obstacles and long-range coverage which are crucial in reduction of communication network deployment costs," he added.

So what exactly is TVWS? Mfupe explained that it's a term used to describe the contiguous unused portions of spectrum found in the frequency bands primarily allocated for provision of broadcast television.

For countries in the ITU Region 1, this band is found in the range between 470MHz and 694MHz – but excluding the Radio Astronomy sub-band between 606MHz and 614MHz.

Dr. Luzango Mfupe, CSIR Principal Researcher and TVWS Project Leader.  (Source: CSIR)
Dr. Luzango Mfupe, CSIR Principal Researcher and TVWS Project Leader.
(Source: CSIR)

TVWS use cases include deployment of fixed wireless networks to provide affordable broadband services in hard-to-reach rural and township communities. It also offers wireless networks to enable applications for smart agriculture services, digital education, smart health and smart government services.

"During its introduction, TVWS technology was opposed by the broadcasters who were worried that it was going to take away most of their broadcast spectrum," Mfupe explained.

"However, given its dynamic mechanism of managing and sharing the spectrum, TVWS technology has proved not to be a threat to the existing analogue TV as well as current and future digital TV broadcasters. Thus, TVWS has proved to co-exist with existing technologies operating on the TV band."

Dynamic regulation

In South Africa, regulations on the use of TVWS were published by the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA) in 2018 after going through several technology trials and pilot projects at national and international level, and the operation of TVWS has been effective since 2020.

The CSIR has developed geolocation spectrum database (GLSD) technologies to support the work of ICASA and wireless network operators to access and harness the benefits TVWS.

CSIR's GLSD technology has since been used to build and deploy TVWS networks in Ghana, Botswana and Tanzania as well as further afield in the UK and Cyprus.

"TVWS spectrum introduced a paradigm shift from the traditional command-and-control regime of managing spectrum to an intelligent and dynamic way of managing and accessing spectrum. Studies have shown that dynamic spectrum access (DSA) leads to the most effective and efficient spectrum utilization," Mfupe said. "Therefore, the more we apply DSA beyond the TVWS band, the more we shall realize efficient utilization of spectrum."

"We believe the regulator is on the right track toward adapting the DSA regime in licensing new services to the spectrum bands. However, such a shift or migration to DSA is expected to take longer due to the need to protect existing services," he added.

Success stories

The CSIR has also collaborated with the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) and the British High Commission in South Africa on a project to support youth and women owned ICT-based Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) to become TVWS network operators in rural and township communities across South Africa.

The project aims to not only help connect underserved communities but help improve digital literacy and the uptake of digital services and applications in those communities. It also aims to provide job opportunities for young people, women and persons with disabilities.

During the first phase of the program, four youth and women owned SMMEs across South Africa were supported to become TVWS network operators providing Internet services in their respective communities, which helped create an additional 43 jobs.

Through these four SMMEs: 100 public Wi-Fi hotspots were created, 37 public facilities were connected, 189 households were connected and 4,640 concurrent Internet users were supported.

Mavundla primary school in Port Shepstone, KwaZulu-Natal, connected with broadband Internet using TVWS by AdNotes Pty Ltd, a CSIR beneficiary SMME. (Source: CSIR)
Mavundla primary school in Port Shepstone, KwaZulu-Natal, connected with broadband Internet using TVWS by AdNotes Pty Ltd, a CSIR beneficiary SMME. (Source: CSIR)

Subsequently, phase two of the program has helped add another nine youth and women owned ICT-based SMMEs in communities across five SA provinces.

Outside of SA the CSIR is collaborating with the College of Information and Communication Technologies (CoICT) at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) in Tanzania to deploy a campus-wide TVWS network for enabling provision of online education to the UDSM students.

It is also working with the Tanzanian government as a consultant to assess the viability of using TVWS to provide affordable broadband services in rural Tanzania.

*Top image source: Image by Freepik.

Related posts:

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub

Story

Orange Ventures, Digital Africa promise more funding for startups

Orange Ventures and Digital Africa are teaming up to invest more in tech startups in Africa and the Middle East through Digital Africa's Fuz program and the Orange Digital Center network.

Story

Hot startup of the month: Rwanda's Ampersand

Connecting Africa's hot startup this month is Rwanda's Ampersand, which designs, builds, and manufactures electric motorcycles and battery packs for motorcycle taxis.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Sponsored video

More videos

Follow us on X

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Upcoming events

Africa Tech Festival 2024
November 11-14, 2024
Cape Town, South Africa
More Upcoming events

Africa Tech Perspectives

Story

Uber's Marjorie Saint-Lot on inclusion and sustainability in Africa

Uber's Country Manager for Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire, Marjorie Saint-Lot, shares how the ride-hailing company is approaching public-private partnerships, environmentally friendly initiatives and gender inclusion in Africa.

Story

The 100 most influential African leaders in 2023

A new report from Africa Tech Festival and Connecting Africa puts a spotlight on the top 100 African leaders in the telecoms and technology sector in 2023.

Story

Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.

More Africa Tech perspectives

Guest Perspectives

Story

Omdia View: April 2024

By Omdia Analysts

April 2024's telecoms highlights in the Middle East and Africa included a license for Starlink in Ghana, new mobile termination rates in Ethiopia, and 6G trials in Bahrain – that and more in the latest Omdia View.

Story

Leveraging agritech to build resilience against climate change

By Francis Hook

ICT analyst Francis Hook discusses agritech in Africa and how the agricultural sector is using technology to build resilience against the negative effects of climate change and to ensure food security.

More Guest Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up


Sign Up
Tag id test-002