Broadband access via television white spaces is planned to be tested in Tanzania, thanks to a pilot project involving the likes of tech giant Microsoft.
White spaces technology taps unused portions of TV spectrum in frequency bands to provide wireless broadband services.
And Microsoft -- together with the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) and local internet service provider UhuruOne -- are planning to roll out this type of wireless broadband access to university students and faculty members of the University of Dar es Salaam.
Aims of the pilot include helping to make wireless broadband more accessible on the continent, says Microsoft. The firm further adds that the Tanzanian project, in particular, is targeted at boosting levels of digital literacy, teaching technical skills and advancing e-learning.
“We anticipate that tens of thousands of Tanzanian students and faculty members will be able to take advantage of the wireless broadband packages offered by UhuruOne through the project,” said Dr. Hassan Mshinda, director general, COSTECH.
In addition, all three organisations have plans to roll out Windows 8 laptops or tablets, wireless applications and services to students on campus. The partners say they are working with banks to offer small loans to cover the cost of the packages.
The packages in turn are planned to cost $30 per month or $1 per day for the duration of students' stay at the university. This price covers the internet service, the required device and insurance thereof, and the content.
All the organisations involved in the project say the money generated from the service is planned to cover salaries of students who are employed to work on the project.
Officials say the price of the packages, though, could potentially go down if other groups decide to provide other subsidies.
The Tanzanian white spaces broadband pilot, though, also follows a similar project Microsoft launched in February this year Kenya where it delivered low-cost internet access to rural locations.
Search giant Google has also been testing out TV white spaces broadband in Cape Town, South Africa. Ten educational facilities in the city are trialling the initiative..
However, Microsoft says that its white spaces projects further forms part of its ‘4Afrika initiative’, which comprise a series of investments the firm plans to make on the continent in a bid to help bolster Africa’s economic development.
“After announcing our ‘Mawingu’ pilot in Kenya, Microsoft has been flooded with requests from a wide range of companies and governments interested in developing similar projects,” said Paul Garnett, director at Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group.
“White spaces technology and efficient spectrum management have a huge potential for expanding affordable broadband access throughout the world. We hope all governments will follow the example of forward-looking countries like Kenya, Tanzania and many others that have taken steps to support deployment of white spaces technology.”