Microsoft uses TV whitespaces to take broadband to Tanzanian universities

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TV whitespaces are playing an increasingly important role when it comes to providing broadband to emerging market countries. The latest project to use the technology sees Microsoft partner up with the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) and UhuruOne to provide wireless broadband access to university students and faculty in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

TV white spaces technology provides wireless broadband by tapping into unused portions of wireless spectrum in the frequency bands generally used for television. Although Africa has the highest growth rates in the world for mobile broadband penetration, wireless broadband services remain largely unaffordable throughout the region.

According to Microsoft, this pilot looks to improve that situation by focusing on broadband access in the area of education, “an effort that will increase digital literacy, teach technical skills, advance e-learning and ultimately promote economic growth”.

The pilot’s initial deployment in Dar es Salaam will target the University of Dar es Salaam, among others. “We anticipate that tens of thousands of Tanzanian students and faculty members will be able to take advantage of the wireless broadband packages offered by UhuruOne through the project,” said Dr. Hassan Mshinda, director general, COSTECH.

These packages, says Microsoft, will include a Windows 8 laptop or tablet, wireless broadband connectivity, and applications and services. Its partners are reportedly working with banks to offer small loans to cover the cost of the packages.

In addition to offering affordable connectivity, devices and services, the pilot will hire a team of students as on-campus support staff for the network infrastructure.

This isn’t the first Microsoft project to make use of TV whitespaces. Earlier this year, it launched a similar project in Kenya aimed at bringing broadband to rural areas.

Google meanwhile recently rolled out its own TV whitespaces project in South Africa, aimed at low-income schools.

These pilot projects and similar initiatives are part of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, a new series of investments which Microsoft claims are designed to enable it to actively engage in Africa’s economic development and to improve its global competitiveness.

“After announcing our ‘Mawingu’ pilot in Kenya, Microsoft has been flooded with requests from a wide range of companies and governments interested in developing similar projects,” says Paul Garnett, director at Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group. “White spaces technology and efficient spectrum management have a huge potential for expanding affordable broadband access throughout the world. We hope all governments will follow the example of forward-looking countries like Kenya, Tanzania and many others that have taken steps to support deployment of white spaces technology.”



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