Earlier this year, Microsoft announced it was was starting pilot projects with the governments of Kenya and Tanzania to explore delivering high-speed Internet access to remote areas using “white spaces” technology.
Today, Microsoft is expanding that experiment with another pilot project, this time in South Africa.
“White spaces” refer to unused TV frequencies, for instance, those allocated as buffers to prevent interference between different channels that are being used. These unused channels in the TV spectrum band can be used to deliver wireless broadband connections — something technology companies such as Microsoft and Google have been pushing for.
The South African pilot project will use solar-powered base stations and TV white spaces to deliver Internet access to five secondary schools in the remote part of the Limpopo province. Microsoft is working with several local organizations on the project, which also includes providing the schools with Windows devices, solar panels for device charging in areas where there’s no electricity, training and support.
The goal, the company said, is to show that white spaces can be used to provide low-cost Internet access for a majority of South Africans — something the government there has said it wants to achieve by 2020.
It’s all part of Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative, which aims to spur economic development on the continent, as well as to get Microsoft’s devices and services into the hands of people on a continent where the company sees great growth potential.