Using wireless technology innovation to enable cloud-connected experiences in Ghana and beyond

I’m in Accra, Ghana, attending the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance Global Summit, where we are announcing new TV white spaces pilots on four continents, including our newest project in Koforidua, Ghana.

TV white spaces, the unused frequencies in the wireless spectrum band dedicated to television, are widely seen as the first opportunity to enable wireless devices to opportunistically tap into unused spectrum. Better use of the spectrum could translate to cheaper, more ubiquitous and higher-bandwidth wireless broadband connectivity. The project in Ghana is the latest in a series of TV white spaces deployments in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas. Currently, Microsoft is involved in pilot projects in 10 countries spanning four continents.

Through these pilots, Microsoft is working with public and private sector partners to deploy networks using low-cost wireless technologies, including TV white space radios, to better enable the next generation of cloud-connected experiences. These projects are also important for governments, particularly in emerging markets, where delivery of education, healthcare and government services, as well as small business empowerment, are top priorities.

The new pilot in Ghana, a part of Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative, is a commercial partnership with SpectraLink Wireless and a research partnership with Facebook. The pilot is designed to enable university students and faculty members at universities in Koforidua to enjoy always-on and fast Internet access. The network will be coupled with a productivity and communications application solution from Microsoft, as well as a device funding model enabling students to purchase a new Internet-enabled device. The pilot is operating under a test license from the Ghana National Communications Authority (NCA).

Facebook is collaborating with us on the project in Ghana to better understand how TV white space spectrum and equipment can support wireless Internet users. All three project partners are also members of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, a global, cross-industry alliance focused on increasing dynamic access to unused spectrum and the organization that convened this week’s summit.

Progress on dynamic spectrum access is by no means limited to Africa. We’re seeing significant momentum across the globe, and we’re in the process of launching new pilot projects in Scotland, Taiwan and Uruguay – the first TV white space pilot in Latin America.

Despite the positive developments taking place globally, significant hurdles remain. In particular, we are calling on policymakers to create a supportive legal and regulatory environment to unlock the economic potential of TV white spaces and other dynamic spectrum access technologies.

We are committed to continuing our work to expand the availability, reduce the cost and improve the quality of cloud-connected experiences, and we’re pleased to work with the industry, academia and policymakers in Ghana and beyond to make that happen.

About the Author

Director, Technology Policy Group, Microsoft