By finally publishing regulations on the use of Television White Spaces (TVWS), South Africa’s Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) has paved the way for two significant turning points in the country’s rollout of Internet access to its citizens.
The first is the provision of much cheaper broadband networks that offer Internet connectivity to currently underserviced areas – both semi-urban and rural. The second is the potential development of an entirely new, entrepreneurial-flavoured industry to install and manage those networks, creating greater choice for consumers.
The best way to understand TVWS technology is to think of our old analogue television sets that we manually tuned in to our favourite stations – remember those?
In this country, where we have only a handful of terrestrial stations, there is a lot of ‘snow’ on the VHF and UHF bands in between stations. These are the gaps or ‘white spaces’ that can be used for other broadcasts, or for broadband Internet networks.
Of course, nobody wants interference with their television signal while they are enjoying their favourite series, movie or rugby match. After all, we pay TV licence fees, in part to guarantee clear broadcasts. So, one of the most fundamental issues with TVWS technology is the allocation of those unused channels, in a way that there is no intrusion on the primary user.