Ten times cheaper Internet on ‘white space’

2013-07-29 00:00

AN Internet speed of between two and four megabits per second (Mbps) at a cost to the consumer of between R20 and R50.

This is the potentially good news for South Africa if a new pilot programme by Microsoft SA succeeds.

Mteto Nyati, managing director of Microsoft in South Africa, said on Friday in Kempton Park that the company wanted to “democratise” technology. This included cheap and fast broadband for all.

He said it was Microsoft’s mission to bring down the cost of Internet in South Africa. He said the company was co-operating with the Department of Science and Technology, whose mandate it is to give as many people as possible access to the internet by 2020.

Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom said in a statement that Internet access could lead to more economic and educational opportunities in rural areas particularly.

Microsoft will this year give five schools within a 30 km radius of the University of Limpopo in Polokwane free Internet access for a year, using a solar-powered base station.

Microsoft will also donate tablets and study applications to the teachers and pupils.

Material will be sent using the so-called “white-space” frequencies, which refers to unused frequencies in television broadcasting channels that can also be used for other purposes, including fast Internet.

Similar pilot projects have already been completed successfully in the U.S., UK, Singapore and Kenya.

Using white space frequencies could make the Internet footprint 16 times wider than is the case with current frequencies.

Nyati said the pilot programme would serve as a demonstration of the technology.

He said Microsoft would be looking for partners at the end of the year-long programme — including service providers like Telkom — to help roll out the technology to schools in rural areas.

He said the aim was to provide sustainable and affordable Internet to people who could not afford the current costs, which amount to anything from R200 to R500 for an unlimited internet connection with a speed of 2 Mbps per month.

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