Microsoft in Africa
While ICT in Africa is a blooming industry, internet penetration on the continent was at about 11.5% in 2011. Even with the laying of new submarine cables, the continent lags behind the rest of the world in broadband development and requires innovative solutions to its Africa-specific problems.
Microsoft’s white spaces project provides internet access to areas currently lacking even basic electricity.
One of the continent’s challenges that needs to be addressed surrounds the issue of providing underserviced rural areas – that are often not even connected to an electrical grid – with internet access.
A solution to this can be seen in a pilot network in Kenya that makes use of solar-powered towers that tap into unlicensed “white space” frequencies. This initiative was launched by Microsoft in February, in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications; Indigo, a Kenyan internet service provider; and US-based wireless startup, Adaptrum.
Using TV white spaces and solar-powered base stations and towers, the previously unserved locations near Kenya’s Nanyuki and Kalema have been given access to broadband.
‘White spaces’ refers to the unused channels of the wireless spectrum in the frequency bands that are commonly used for television. This is ideal for delivering low-cost broadband access to rural communities as radio signals in the television bands require less base stations for coverage because, unlike other types of radio signals, they travel longer distances and penetrate more obstacles.