Zero. Zip. Nada. That’s how much interference a television white-spaces trial in Cape Town by Google and a number of technology partners has caused since it kicked off in March.
News of the success of the project, which involved providing wireless Internet access to 10 schools using unused spectrum between terrestrial television channels, means the first hurdle has been overcome towards deploying the technology commercially.
Advocates of white-spaces spectrum argue that the technology has the potential to bring cheap wireless access to people in emerging markets, especially rural areas, getting millions of people online for the first time.
The advantage of white-spaces technology is that it uses lower frequencies — the bands employed by terrestrial television broadcasters — that travel longer distances than conventional mobile phone signals, making the technology well suited to providing low-cost connectivity to rural communities with poor telecommunications infrastructure. It can also be used for expanding coverage of wireless broadband in densely populated urban areas.
The trial made use of three base stations located at Stellenbosch University’s faculty of medicine and health sciences at Tygerberg in Cape Town.
Google says that during the trial, teachers at the 10 participating schools were able to use videos in lesson plans and make Skype calls to other schools. “Because the service was better and faster, teachers and pupils could, and did, spend more time online.”
Both scientific measurements and crowd-sourced reporting confirmed that there was no interference experienced during the six-month trial, according to Google.
The trial partners included CSIR Meraka Institute, the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa (Tenet), e-Schools Network, the Wireless Access Providers’ Association and Carlson Wireless. They say they hope that policymakers will now work to create the regulatory framework that will support the wider use of the technology to deliver wireless broadband Internet across the country.
“The success of the trial shows that unused spectrum can be harnessed to benefit the average South African, and can do so without interfering with primary spectrum owners,” says Tenet project manager Arno Hart.
Over the course of the trial, the Meraka Institute performed empirical radio frequency studies to measure potential interference. Its findings show that there was no interference to television broadcasts at all.
Telecoms regulator Icasa has said previously that it intends to use the trial outcomes as inputs into a white-spaces regulatory process.
Google rival Microsoft is also conducting a white-spaces spectrum trial, this time in Polokwane in Limpopo. It’s the third such trial that Microsoft is involved in on the African continent, after it launched projects in Kenya and Tanzania. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media