The project - known as Mawingu - is currently in the proof-of-concept stage, with two solar-power white-space base stations installed in Kenya’s Rift Valley region, transmitting wireless broadband to over 20 user locations such as government offices, schools and healthcare centres.
White space is the section of wireless spectrum which is being freed up as countries undertake the migration from analogue to digital television signal, leaving a portion of low-frequency spectrum unused. It is this spectrum that the Mawingu project - supported by Microsoft and the Kenyan government’s Ministry of Information and Communications - hopes to capitalise on.
“Africa is the perfect location to pioneer white-space technology,” Peter Henderson of Indigo told the New Scientist.
Henderson said should the trial be successful and white-space networks be rolled out across the country, Kenya will be a forerunner in utilising vacant low-frequencies, with a number of western countries still developing ways to make use of the spectrums.
According to Indigo, the Mawingo project was spurred by statistics from the Communications Commision of Kenya (CCK), showing only 2 percent of the country’s population subscribe to broadband connections, mainly due to the cost of subscription.
In addition to providing affordable internet access to rural areas of the country, the Kenyan government hopes that by improving connectivity across the country the flow of information among county departments of government will be facilitated and data could be collected in a single data centre accessible to all county departments, with the end goal of enabling more county-level decision making.