The US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has awarded a grant to support an Adaptrum-led project to help improve Internet access to rural areas in South Africa.
The grant, which focuses on facilitating export opportunities for US companies in support of sustainable development projects globally, will fund several TV White Space (TVWS) deployments, with the goal of establishing business and deployment models that can be replicated across the country.
The pilot sites will be in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Gauteng, and in Mpumalanga.
US Consulate General in Durban Political and Economic Chief Hala Rharrit signed the grant on behalf of USTDA, along with Wireless Access Providers Association (Wapa) Executive Committee Member Paul Colmer.
This project supports Prosper Africa, a US government initiative to substantially increase two-way trade and investment between the US and Africa.
As the first country in Africa to publish a TVWS regulatory framework, South Africa has long seen the potential for the technology to bridge the nation’s digital divide, Adaptrum said in a statement issued on Monday.
With an unreached population of more than 20-million people in rural areas and difficult-to-reach terrain, South Africa is considered an ideal location for TVWS, which uses unused broadcast spectrum to deliver long-range wireless connectivity.
The project is intended to demonstrate that TVWS is a feasible business solution for economically and affordably connecting rural South Africa.
“Since deploying the first TVWS system in Africa, Adaptrum has sought ways to use TVWS to bring much-needed connectivity across Africa,” Adaptrum CEO Haiyun Tang said.
“Now that TVWS is allowed in South Africa, we are extremely pleased to have the support of the USTDA for this project to ensure our technology can be deployed affordably and sustainably by our local South African partners,” Tang added.
The Adaptrum-led project team comprises a consortium of US and South African partners including Microsoft, International Data Corporation and Project Isizwe.
The consortium will collaborate with the grant recipient, Wapa to deploy three TVWS network builds and develop a business plan to help Internet serve providers and their investors understand and take advantage of commercial opportunities with TVWS.
“The support from the USTDA today validates what we’ve seen in South Africa and many other locations – TVWS is a valuable and important technology for enabling affordable and reliable connectivity,” said Microsoft Airband International director Kevin Connolly.
“Microsoft works with hardware partners like Adaptrum and investment partners like the USTDA to accelerate bringing connectivity to millions of people around the globe who lack Internet access, and we’re excited to bring this work to fruition in South Africa today,” he added.
Once a successful business model is established, additional TVWS projects across South Africa and in other areas of Southern and East Africa can be developed – bringing much-needed connectivity investment to the continent by tackling issues such as the cost of infrastructure needed to reach the rural poor.