Google, Carlson launch white space trial in South Africa

US white space specialist Carlson Wireless has teamed up with Google to launch the first wireless broadband trial using TV white space in South Africa. The test case will focus on offering wireless connectivity to ten schools across the Cape Town area in an attempt to show that broadband can be offered over white spaces without interfering with licensed spectrum holders.

To prevent interference with other channels, the network will use Google’s spectrum database to determine white space availability. The hardware – Carlson’s RuralConnect Broadband Solution, featuring the Neul Horizon software, will provide the communications backbone for the trial.

Google has had an interest in white spaces since around 2009, around the same time Professor William Webb, now CTO at Neul was head of research and development at Ofcom.

Rolling out wireless broadband technology into the unoccupied radio waves used as buffers between TV channels could enhance broadband access in rural areas. Compared with cellular, Bluetooth and wifi, white space devices use lower frequencies that have greater reach and in-building penetration.

But regulators have acknowledged that white space proponents must first prove that devices can operate without interfering with TV broadcasts and other wireless technologies that share these frequencies, such as wireless microphones. The most likely solution to this problem seems to be that adopted by the US – requiring that such devices include geolocation capabilities and provisions to access an internet database of the incumbent services, allowing for the white space device to be told what spectrum may be used at that location, which is exactly what Google’s database does.

Jim Carlson, president of Carlson Wireless, said, “This is a small example of TVWS spectrum overcoming a need that exists all over the world…providing connectivity to underserved areas is more than an interest to us, it’s specifically what got us into the game.”

Arno Hart, Project Manager at TENET(The Tertiary Education and Research Network), said, “This TVWS technology trial brings South Africa to the cutting edge of innovation in terms of improving Internet connectivity, and is a very positive step towards bringing many more South Africans online. This trial will also be used to inform the regulatory process in South Africa.”

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