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Microsoft focuses on mobile, pilots solar-powered broadband as part of Africa initiative

John Ribeiro | Feb. 5, 2013
Microsoft is collaborating with the Kenyan government and a local Internet service provider to provide broadband access using TV white spaces and solar-powered base stations, as part of a long-term strategy to spread mobile telephony and Internet connectivity in Africa.

The broadband pilot in unserved locations near Nanyuki and Kalema in Kenya will use TV white spaces, the unused portions of wireless spectrum in the frequency bands generally used for television, Microsoft said.

Radio signals in the TV bands travel over longer distances and penetrate more obstacles than other types of radio signals, and will require fewer of the solar-powered base stations that the company plans to deploy to provide coverage.

Microsoft is using dynamic spectrum access, which enables wireless devices to opportunistically tap into unused radio spectrum to establish broadband connections, wrote Paul Garnett, director of Microsoft's Technology Policy Group and Louis Otieno, legal and corporate affairs director at Microsoft's Africa Initiatives in a blog post.

The focus of the project goes beyond testing the technical feasibility of using TV white space technology, towards focusing instead on increasing economic opportunities in communities without access to broadband or electricity, Microsoft said. The initial installation near Nanyuki brings access to a healthcare clinic, a primary school, two secondary schools and a community center.

Microsoft has been operating in Africa for 20 years, and has offices in 14 countries. It did not disclose the size of the investment it plans in Africa for the new initiative.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

 

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