An interesting article featured in "" explains that ICT in Africa is a blooming industry, but internet penetration on the continent was at about 11.5% in 2011. Even with the laying of new submarine cables, the continent lags behind the rest of the world in broadband development and requires innovative solutions to its Africa-specific problems.

One of the continent’s challenges that needs to be addressed surrounds the issue of providing underserviced rural areas – that are often not even connected to an electrical grid – with internet access.

A solution to this can be seen in a pilot network in Kenya that makes use of solar-powered towers that tap into unlicensed “white space” frequencies. This initiative was launched by Microsoft in February, in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications; Indigo, a Kenyan internet service provider; and US-based wireless startup, Adaptrum.

Using TV white spaces and solar-powered base stations and towers, the previously unserved locations near Kenya’s Nanyuki and Kalema have been given access to broadband. ‘White spaces’ refers to the unused channels of the wireless spectrum in the frequency bands that are commonly used for television. This is ideal for delivering low-cost broadband access to rural communities as radio signals in the television bands require less base stations for coverage because, unlike other types of radio signals, they travel longer distances and penetrate more obstacles.

“White spaces and efficient spectrum management represent a creative, tested and affordable way of extending broadband access to unserved communities,” said the director of Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group, Paul Garnett, in an emailed statement. “Kenya is one of the countries leading the way in using this innovative solution, and we hope regulators around the world take note and develop legal frameworks that support broader commercial deployment of white space technology in their own jurisdictions.”

This project is part of Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative, which aims to help improve the continent’s global competitiveness. According to the Communications Commissions of Kenya, only 2% of Kenyans subscribe to broadband services.

“We believe our work in Kenya serves as strong proof that true commercial deployment of white spaces technology not only makes good business sense, but could have a key role in delivering on the promise of universal access for Africa – significantly reducing barriers to affordable broadband access faced by almost half the world’s population,” stated Louis Otieno, Microsoft’s legal and corporate affairs director for Africa initiatives.

Read the full original article here