Johannesburg, 08 Nov 2013
The Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa (TENET) and partners today announced the outcomes of a successful TV White Spaces (TVWS) trial with 10 schools in the Cape Town area that began in March this year. TVWS are the unused channels in the broadcast TV spectrum. They offer the potential to improve Internet connectivity where it is most needed - in under-served areas where telecommunications infrastructure is lacking.
The advantage of TVWS is that low-frequency signals can travel longer distances, making the technology well suited to provide low-cost connectivity to rural communities with poor telecommunications infrastructure. It is also used for expanding coverage of wireless broadband in densely populated urban areas.
The participating schools experienced quality broadband access over TV channels. Teachers were able to use videos in lesson plans, make Skype calls to other schools, and more frequently update their Web sites and e-mail parents. Students could research rich-media educational materials. Because the service was better and faster, teachers and students could (and did) spend more time online.
Meanwhile, both scientific measurements and crowdsourced reporting confirmed that there was no interference experienced during the six-month trial.
Duncan Greaves, CEO of TENET, said: "We are delighted at the prospect of TV White Spaces as a means for delivering bandwidth to the education and research sectors in South Africa. The trial demonstrated that the technology can be used to deliver meaningful bandwidth to under-served communities and populations."
The trial partners hope that policy-makers, having evidence of non-interference and a measurable benefit to schools, will now work to create a regulatory framework that will support the wider use of TVWS to deliver wireless broadband Internet across the country, helping to bring more people online to experience the many benefits of the Internet.
"This trial demonstrated that ordinary people, in this case the pupils and teachers at the participating schools, benefited greatly from improved Internet access," said Jenny King, CEO of e-Schools Networks. "Making more radio spectrum available on a dynamic and managed basis, particularly for the delivery of pervasive broadband, benefits everyone."
Over the course of the trial, CSIR Meraka performed empirical RF studies to measure potential interference. Their findings show that there was no interference to TV broadcast. The complete report is available on the TENET Web site.
Dr Ntsibane Ntlatlapa, Manager, Networks and Media Competency Area at CSIR Meraka Institute, added: "The thorough measurements gathered during the trial show that TV White Spaces can be used to deliver wireless Internet service without causing interference to primary users. The outcomes highlight the potential of TVWS to help bridge the digital divide and open up access to under-served and rural areas."
ICASA has said that the regulator intends to use the trial outcomes as inputs into the TVWS regulatory process.
During the trial, the TVWS service was broadcast from three base stations located at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in Tygerberg, Cape Town. The industry-led trial followed a workshop in Johannesburg in October 2011, hosted by trial partners, at which ICASA lent support for a South African trial.
TENET provides Internet and data networking services to South Africa's public education and statutory research institutions. As such, it manages the South African Research and Education Network (SANReN), which served as the backhaul for the TVWS trial, and provided the IP transit.