The pilot season is over, and now it's launch time for Africa's first commercial network service using TV white spaces (TVWS), debuting in Ghana with Spectra Wireless and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) 4Afrika at the helm.
The commercial service comes after an initial TV white spaces pilot launched in May 2014. Spectra Wireless says it is the first company in Africa to offer a consumer broadband Internet access service leveraging TV white space technology.
While the initial pilot project in Ghana offered wireless broadband to universities, this new commercial service allows students to have their own Internet bundles, determine their own usage and purchase Internet-enabled device for anytime, anywhere access and enhanced productivity, said Fernando de Sousa, general manager of Africa Initiatives at Microsoft, in a press release.
Research by the U.S.-based Wi-Fi Alliance shows that 90 percent of students view access to Wi-Fi as critical to their success. "High speed broadband offers students and teachers a way to access learning resources from all over the world, equalizing the divide between developed and developing nations," de Sousa said.
The cheapest data package starts at two Ghana cedi per day and provides 24 hours of access. University students also will be able to purchase high-speed Internet bundles, use apps like Microsoft Office 365 and apply for zero-interest loans in partnership with UT Bank to purchase select, Internet-enabled Microsoft, Lenovo, Dell and HP devices.
Even in advance of launching the commercial service, more than 5,800 unique client devices were registered on the network, out of a student population in Koforidua of 8,500, so the interest level already was high, said Sam Darko, country leader of Spectra Wireless, in the release. "We look forward to educating more students and offering them affordable devices," Darko added.
The commercial license was granted by the Ghanaian regulator, NCA, allowing use of TV frequencies on a secondary basis as long as TV is not interfered with.
Microsoft is one of many leading companies--another big name being Google (NASDAQ: GOOG)--that has engaged in lobbying and pilot deployments to convince national governments to open up spectrum for TVWS broadband networks.
Microsoft and Spectra Wireless are members of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA), which was created in June 2013 to provide a forum for influencing telecom regulators to support TVWS technology and spectrum sharing. The DSA will hold its next global summit in Manila, Philippines, May 6-8.
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