Microsoft Corp., in collaboration with the Government of Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communications and Indigo Telecom Ltd., today announced the launch of a pilot project delivering low-cost wireless broadband access to previously unserved locations near Nanyuki and Kalema, Kenya.

The network utilizes TV white spaces and solar-powered base stations to deliver broadband access and create new opportunities for commerce, education, healthcare, and delivery of government services.

TV white spaces, the unused portions of wireless spectrum in the frequency bands generally used for television, are particularly well-suited for delivering low-cost broadband access to rural and other unserved communities.

This pilot is part of Microsoft’s broader 4Afrika Initiative, to help improve the continent’s global competitiveness. A core goal of the 4Afrika Initiative is to facilitate access to technology for the masses, to empower African students, entrepreneurs, developers and others to become active global citizens.

“Microsoft was built on the idea that technology should be accessible and affordable to the masses, and to date, this promise has remained unfulfilled in Africa,” said Louis Otieno, Legal and Corporate Affairs Director for Africa initiatives at Microsoft. “This technology has the potential to deliver on the promise of universal and affordable high-speed wireless broadband for Africa, and we are proud and humbled to be part of this important effort,” Otieno added.

Radio signals in the TV bands travel over longer distances and penetrate more obstacles than other types of radio signals and therefore require fewer base stations to provide ubiquitous coverage. Microsoft intends to use this pilot and other similar initiatives to encourage African governments to make needed legal and regulatory changes which would allow this type of technology to be deployed continent-wide.

The initial installation near Nanyuki includes five customer locations while the installation in Kalema will begin with a base station that connects to a Government of Kenya agricultural extension office. Fourteen more locations to the network will be added in the coming months.

Paul Garnett, Director in Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group, said: “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.”

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions.


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