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TV white spaces forum paves the way for wireless broadband across Africa

Darren Murph
06.08.13
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I've traveled to remote islands in the South Pacific where wireless internet is proving to be the go-to technology for broadband, and increasingly, it's looking as if tether-less connections will be what brings millions upon millions of Africans online. Google's own Eric Schmidt has confessed as recently as March that the most exciting part of the web's future isn't any one technology or product, but the "next five billion people looking to get connected." So, it figures that Google was a major constituent at the recent TV White Spaces & Dynamic Spectrum Africa Forum in Dakar, Senegal. It -- along with 15 African nations, Microsoft, the Association for Progressive Communications, Afrinic and others -- recently convened in order to discuss the opportunities that are currently facing the continent. Indeed, the fact that there is over 90MHz available in Dakar alone to be used for wireless broadband deployment puts Africa in a unique spot -- one of the most disconnected regions of our planet could become a pioneer in bringing the next wave of humans online.

ICASA, the South African regulator, will reportedly use various trial outcomes to evaluate possible rules for use of the TV white spaces. And, as Steve Song of Village Telco points out, it's pretty astounding to have Microsoft and Google working in some fashion towards a similar goal. As it stands, a lot has to happen -- final standards have to be agreed upon, equipment makers have to decide that it's a profitable enterprise, and individual nations have to place a high priority on getting their populations connected. That said, the amount of momentum that's already happening is supremely compelling, and I'm hoping to report back in the coming months on how a smattering of these very trials are impacting communities across Africa right now. Stay tuned!

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