ICASA silent on white space spectrum

Television white space technology may be the solution to connecting rural South Africa, however, industry players are awaiting guidance from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), says a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) official.

Karel Matthee, research group leader for trusted network infrastructures and services at CSIR Meraka Institute, told attendees at the 8th annual Broadband Summit that the organisation has started looking into white space technologies as a “next step” in efforts to develop solutions which would provide broadband access to unconnected rural areas of South Africa.

White space technology involves the use of low-frequency spectrum, typically between 400 mHz and 800 mHz – which will be freed up as migration from analogue to digital television occurs – to provide broadband coverage to rural communities, given the technology’s longer transmission range of up to 10 kilometres.

However, the research is only provisional. Matthee explaine ICASA has not yet indicated what will happen to television frequency spectrum following the completion of the country’s digital migration, as such the white space spectrum may not be made available to operators.

“What happens after digital migration in South Africa is very important,” said Matthee.  “We are waiting for ICASA to give us guidance regarding what will happen.”

CSIR has been working on extending broadband connectivity across the country, following statistics indicating only 17 per cent of the population enjoy internet connectivity – the majority of this percentage being located in urban centres.

While the organisation has primarily been working on the Broadband for Africa initiative, rolling out mesh cluster technologies to connect rural schools, medical institutes and businesses, it has also begun researching the potential scope of white-space technologies.

Research, Matthee says, has so far been very positive, adding that the authorities and research groups should consider the experiences of other countries which have made attempts to expand internet connectivity across vast expanses of rural territory through white-space technology.

Posted in: Telecoms

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