A graphic explanation of how the wireless broadband system designed by Carlson Wireless and Neul will work

TV White Space trial launched in South Africa

A Google-led trial is using gaps in the broadcast TV spectrum to provide wireless broadband for ten schools in South Africa.

Californian firm Carlson Wireless and Cambridge, UK-based Neul are collaborating on the pioneering technology to take advantage of the TV ‘white space’ spectrum in between channels, which offers the potential to improve Internet connectivity where it is most needed, in the developing world.

The low frequencies in the TV white space spectrum can travel long distances, so the technology is well suited to provide low cost connectivity to rural communities with poor telecommunications infrastructure, as well as for expanding coverage of wireless broadband in densely populated urban areas.

Google has chosen Carlson’s Rural Connect solution for the trial in the Cape Town area. This uses Neul Horizon software for rural connectivity and the Neul Operations and Management Centre (OMC), a cloud-based management system, to provide the communications backbone for the system, allowing point to multi-point sharing of a high bandwidth data link.

Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, public policy manager for Google South Africa, said the service will be broadcast from three base stations located at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in Tygerberg, Cape Town. Ten local schools will receive wireless broadband to test the technology.

“During the trial, we will attempt to show that broadband can be offered over white spaces without interfering with licensed spectrum holders,” he explained.

“To prevent interference with other channels, the network uses Google’s spectrum database to determine white space availability. To confirm results, the CSIR Meraka Institute will take spectrum measurements and frequently report back to [telecoms regulator] ISACA and the local broadcasters.”

“TV white space offers an affordable alternative to both wired and cellular connections for under-reached communities,” said Neul co-founder Neil MacMullen. “We’re pleased to partner with Carlson and Google to facilitate the adoption of this technology in support of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa and the Tertiary Education and Research Network (TENET) of South Africa’s effort to bring affordable, broadband Internet to students in Cape Town.”

Carlson and Neul have both taken part in numerous white space communications trials around the world, and are actively involved in guiding and shaping the industry, regulations and rollout of the technology.

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