Is TV Whitespace the Answer to Africa’s Digital Divide?
Analog could be the answer
Data and information are the new currency. The world is now divided between those who have access to it and those who do not. The reasons for inaccessibility are numerous but the common denominator is cost. Cost of setting up the infrastructure and cost of the end product or service. The former affects the latter in a big way. The answer to this dilemma in developing countries could be TV Whitespace.
What is TV Whitespace?
TV whitespace (TVWS) is the use of unused TV band spectrum470 MHz to 698 MHz range of UHF frequencies. These radio signals can travel over longer distances and penetrate more obstacles than other types of radio signals, enabling non-line-of-sight wireless connectivity and requiring fewer base stations to provide ubiquitous coverage. It uses an unlicensed spectrum which in turn significantly reduces the high operation costs compared to other technologies.
For example, in Zimbabwe, we had two major ZBCTV channels. Each channel broadcasts at a unique frequency. Between these frequencies is a buffer that serves the purpose of not causing interference between the broadcasting channels. It is in this unused part of the unused spectrum that Eciton can use for broadband internet access can be transmitted via.
Why TV Whitespace?
It has been referred to as “Super Wi-Fi” and for good reason too.
Covers great distances
A typical TVWS deployment covers a distance of 10 km. increasing the power of the radios can achieve 15+ kilometres as has been shown in some tests.
Penetrates common obstructions
While Wi-Fi can easily be obstructed by walls, TVWS can penetrate these without much signal attenuation. Eciton performed a trial test on the Stanford campus with lots of buildings and a speed of 12 megabits per second was achieved. Watch this video.
Greater cost to efficiency ratio
Due to no licence fees and lower deployment costs compared to other technologies like 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi, TVWS is a prime technology for the unserved and underserved.
If Africa is to be an active participant in today’s digital economy and also accelerate the development of its own digital economy, TVWS might just be the answer. This is due to the distribution of its population where a greater portion still lives in rural areas. These communities could be served better because of this technology.
Here at Eciton Technologies, we are pioneering this technology in Africa to connect Africa to the world. We are currently conducting a trial in Mozambique and other countries are soon to follow. Eciton has made its mission to bridge the digital divide and allow for digital inclusion