Microsoft, Facebook launch TV white-space pilot in Ghana

Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) latest TV white-space (TVWS) spectrum pilot is being enabled with help from Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and SpectraLink Wireless, an Internet service provider in Ghana.

The project is operating under a pilot license granted by the Ghana National Communications Authority. Microsoft said its research partnership with Facebook and commercial partnership with SpectraLink Wireless will enable deployment of low-cost wireless networks covering entire campuses at All Nations University College and Koforidua Polytechnic in Koforidua, Ghana.

Students and faculty will be able to access the networks, which will use TVWS-enabled radios and other wireless technologies to connect campus buildings as well as off-campus hostels where students live.

Facebook's Connectivity Lab got involved with the project to help its members better understand how TVWS spectrum and equipment can support wireless Internet users today. The lab's team is working on new technologies to support Internet.org's mission, which is geared toward expanding Internet access in developing countries by making it more affordable and efficient.

SpectraLink Wireless is supplying its Edutech-as-a-Service platform to the pilot project. The platform will ensure "students and faculty will have access to the best productivity applications on the market and Internet access at true broadband speeds," said John Sarpong, SpectraLink CEO.

This TVWS pilot is part of Microsoft's 4Afrika Initiative, which aims to improve the continent's competitive positioning by facilitating technology access. The pilot in Ghana brings to 10 the number of countries globally where Microsoft is involved in TVWS projects.

"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," said Paul Garnett, director in Microsoft's technology policy group.

Microsoft, Facebook and SpectraLink are all members of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA), which held its global summit May 13-14 in Accra. The alliance was created in June 2013 to provide a forum for influencing telecommunications regulators to support TVWS technology and spectrum sharing.

An FCC decision in 2008 made the United States the first country to approve the use of TVWS, which is made up of unused slivers of spectrum located between TV broadcast channels, for wireless broadband use. The commission later set up rules requiring the use of spectrum databases to prevent TVWS interference with broadcast operations.

Microsoft is also a founding member of Taiwan's newly announced Dynamic Spectrum Access Pilot Group, which also includes Taiwanese companies such as Mediatek, academic and research institutions, the Communications Research Center at the National Taiwan University and the Taiwan Institute for Information Industry. All are DSA members as well.

Microsoft is one of many leading companies--another being Google (NASDAQ: GOOG)--that has engaged in lobbying and pilot deployments to convince national governments to open up spectrum for TVWS broadband networks. A study group within the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is slated to deliver a report by mid-year regarding best practices in spectrum management for cognitive radio systems, which will be key to making TVWS spectrum available in markets worldwide.

For more:
- see this Microsoft release
- see this Dynamic Spectrum Alliance release

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