Microsoft launching TV white-space pilots in two nations

JOHANNESBURG – Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is expanding its efforts to leverage TV white-space (TVWS) spectrum to deliver broadband to under served areas, announcing new technology pilots in South Africa and the Philippines.

Microsoft’s pilot project in rural Limpopo, South Africa, is aimed at showing how TV white spaces can be used to meet the South African government’s goal of providing low-cost broadband for a majority of South Africans by 2020. Also participating in the pilot are South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the University of Limpopo and local network builder Multisource.

The TVWS-based broadband network will use solar-powered base stations to deliver inexpensive Internet access to five secondary schools in remote parts of the Limpopo province. Each of the five schools will be given Windows tablets, projectors, teacher laptops and training, education-related content, solar panels for device charging where there is no access to electricity, and other support. The University of Limpopo will serve as a hub for TVWS network deployment.

microsoftThe project is part of Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative, which is aimed at accelerating economic development in Africa.

Microsoft also ventured into a TVWS partnership with the Philippine government in hopes of improving registration methods for people fishing in the Danajon Reef Marine Key Biodiversity Area in Bohol. The registration, supported by USAID’s Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (ECOFISH) Project, will buttress the Philippine government’s economic assistance efforts to the fisheries sector.

Using TVWS spectrum, local government units will be able to access the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Fisherfolk Registration System directly from the field, enabling municipalities to immediately distribute IDs, certificates and licenses, even in remote areas.

Additionally, field operatives from BFAR, the Philippine National Police and Bantay Dagat (a volunteer sea patrol group) will use the network to access a central database to monitor compliance in gear and vessels.

Microsoft Philippines will provide Windows 8-powered tablets for the program. The partnership will also provide Internet access for target municipalities, delivering service to public institutions such as clinics, schools and barangay (local government) halls.

The TVWS technology trial is slated for full implementation in September. Results will be assessed for potential program expansion on 2014, said Microsoft

Other countries where Microsoft TVWS pilots have been completed or are underway include Kenya, Tanzania, the United Kingdom and Singapore.

As a member of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, which launched last month, Microsoft is lobbying governments to enact laws and regulations supportive of TVWS technology and spectrum sharing. “We hope governments throughout the world will take note of the increasing momentum behind this technology,” said Paul Garnett, director at Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group.

TVWS has also been getting a big boost from Microsoft rival Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). One of Google’s TVWS pilots is also in South Africa, where the company is working with others on a network trial to deliver wireless Internet connectivity via TVWS to 10 South African schools. Google has been approved by the FCC as a TVWS database administrator in the United States.

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