The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has approved plans for telecoms start-up AfriCanopy to embark on an eight-month commercial trial of television white space (TVWS) devices.
AfriCanopy will now deploy high-speed, low-cost broadband using its new telecoms technology to the 85 000 residents of the King Cetshwayo municipality, in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as provide free Internet access to about 50 rural schools across the region.
“This is the first time that Icasa has authorised a company to begin a commercial trial with television white space devices, which holds out the promise of bringing Internet access to all,” says AfriCanopy founder and majority shareholder Samora Xorile.
The trial is expected to start in the first quarter of 2019, following a R32-million fundraising, which is currently under way.
The AfriCanopy team is in negotiations with both private and public backers, including the KwaZulu-Natal Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs Department.
The project will create 400 new jobs through a “business-in-a-box” programme that will equip aspiring local entrepreneurs with solar power supplies, WiFi devices and TVWS equipment to enable them to sell airtime, data and cellular charging services to customers at much lower prices than currently available.
“AfriCanopy will provide this new cohort of telecoms entrepreneurs with all the technical and business training needed to make a success of their new revenue-generating opportunities, which will, in turn, contribute to the economic wellbeing of the wider municipality,” says Xorile.
The TVWS technology uses the portions of the ultrahigh frequency terrestrial television spectrum that is not used by broadcasters to transmit voice and data cheaper and over greater distances than cellular frequencies.
“Not only does AfriCanopy’s technology make more efficient use of available spectrum, it also poses no threat of interference to existing broadcasters. Moreover, TVWS also has better in-building penetration than is currently available with regular cellular frequencies.”
Should the trial be successful, AfriCanopy could roll out the technology to other Internet-starved rural areas across South Africa.
“We are delighted by the Icasa decision, and look forward to pioneering the provision of high-speed, low-cost broadband services to our rural communities,” Xorile concludes.