Service Providers

Microsoft’s White Space Initiative to Boost Kenya’s Broadband Subscribers Elevenfold this Year

06 August 2013

Microsoft Corp.’s 4Afrika initiative is aiming to increase broadband penetration in both developing and developed countries, the first of which will be in Kenya where white space network deployments will increase broadband subscribers by more than a factor of 11 this year, according to an IHS report entitled “Identifying Opportunities in White Space Radio.”

Microsoft’s developments in the white space segment are specifically focused on helping rural areas in developing nations expand their broadband provision. Through its 4Afrika initiative, Microsoft’s white space deployments in Kenya, specifically, will increase the current broadband penetration during the next few months to 68,000 subscribers, up from 6,000 individuals.

The deployment in Kenya will be the first wide scale use of white space radio technology. IHS defines white space as the radio spectrum that has been left unused following the transition from analog to digital television—i.e., the UHF and VHF bands. The transition from analog to digital has streamlined spectrum usage, leaving behind white space frequency bands, which are unlicensed and can effectively be used for any application.

“White space technology can offer a suitable means of rural broadband provision, particularly where traditional technologies such as cable or fiber cannot reach due to challenging terrain, or are not economically viable to implement,” said Lisa Arrowsmith, associate director for connectivity at IHS. “Already, there have been some notable trials using white space radio spectrum to enable rural broadband in parts of America, Asia and Africa.”

Spreading rural

Increasing the penetration of rural broadband services is a key concern within both developed and developing countries. Rural broadband services are also a major feature of many of the television white space (TVWS) trials deployed around the world to date. IHS believes that deployment plans for rural broadband expansion are in place, mostly in developing countries, and future announcements for further deployments will soon happen in countries in both Asia-Pacific and Africa.

“The UHF white spaces, freed up by the transition from analog to digital television transmission, offer great propagation characteristics, such as long range and good penetration,” said Elizabeth Mead, connectivity analyst at IHS. “Therefore, white space technologies, like 802.22 or 802.11af, can offer a suitable alternative to current technologies across a broad range of applications.”

Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative along with other rural broadband plans will help to proliferate what are deemed “Smart City” networks. These types of networks include a wide range of applications, from public safety, to smart grid, to transportation monitoring infrastructure, to connected cars, to telehealth and much more. Given the fact that such networks require high latency, bandwidth and quality of service, it can be challenging to serve these requirements by a single technology. Using white space radio technology may be a way to improve these services in developing countries.

White Space Report

The IHS report “Identifying Opportunities in White Space Radio” covers the subject of white space radio deployments within a range of key application areas, analyzing the market from both technological and strategic standpoints.

The applications covered in this report are rural and urban broadband, smart grid, street lighting, telehealth, home automation, process automation, security systems, public safety, transportation monitoring infrastructure, connected car, asset tracking and smart city networks.

This report presents a quantitative overview of the potential penetration level, total market size—not white space-specific—and length of expected time for white space radio technology to be adopted in each of the 14 vertical markets. Also included are more detailed top-level market sizing estimates and projections for nine vertical applications.

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