The Cape Town TV White Spaces Trial

March 25, 2013

WAPA is participating with a number of partners in the operation of the Cape Town TV White Spaces Trial.

The following information is taken with permission from the TENET website. Please go here for updates on the trial.

About the Trial

With the support of ICASA, the communications regulator of South Africa, a group of partners is setting up a TV White Spaces (TVWS) trial for ten schools in the Western Cape over a six month period. The trial partners include TENET, CSIR Meraka, e-Schools Network, WAPA, Comsol Wireless Solutions, and Google.
The goals of the trial are to:

  • Demonstrate that TVWS can be used to deliver affordable broadband and Internet services without interfering with TV reception.
  • Increase awareness of the potential for TVWS technology in South Africa and across the continent.
  • The partners will periodically update ICASA, Sentech, the Joint Spectrum Advisory Group, broadcasters and other constituents on trial outcomes, including spectrum measurements and reported interference.

The Network

The TVWS network will consist of multiple base stations located on top of Tygerberg Hospital, which will deliver broadband Internet service to ten schools within a 10 kilometer radius. The ten schools have been pre-selected based on proximity to the base station, local IT and network support, and other connectivity requirements. Each school will receive dedicated 2.5 mbps service with failover to ADSL in order to prevent downtime during school hours.

Network status

  • January 2013: Network equipment is being installed, configured and tested in preparation for launch.
  • November 1 – 7, 2012: Completed pre-installations of network equipment at partner schools.
  • October 15, 2012: 10 schools selected after extensive IT audits to meet network requirements.
  • September 25, 2012: Selected WAPA member Comsol Wireless Solutions as the network system integrator.
  • September 12, 2012: ICASA issues permission to Meraka and its partners to set up a TV White Space network in the Western Cape


Why are you doing a trial?
South Africa has expressed early interest in TVWS technology. In October 2011, government officials, regulators, and industry leaders gathered at an event hosted by APC, WAPA and Google Africa to discuss the benefits of this emerging technology. ICASA recognized the opportunity to use TVWS to provide Internet services and, with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is exploring how TVWS could be applied. ICASA will use data from the trial to inform the rulemaking process.

What are TV White Spaces?
TV White spaces are the unused channels in the broadcast TV spectrum. New radio and database technologies allow that spectrum to be used to transmit wireless Internet over distances up to ten kilometers. As a result, white spaces can be used to deploy broadband access and other mobile data technologies.

How did the partners come together? Who initiated the trial?
The partners came together at a one-day conference in October 2011 to discuss the future of TVWS technology in South Africa. The event was hosted by APC, WAPA, and Google Africa. ICASA, the South African communications regulator, granted CSIR Meraka and its partners permission to conduct the trial in Cape Town.

Who is involved in the trial?
CSIR Meraka has permission to operate the network through a group of partners and will perform spectrum field measurements to demonstrate non-interference.
TENET is managing the network and providing IP transit.
e-Schools Network is providing support services to the partner schools.
WAPA has sourced local vendors to deploy the network.
Comsol Wireless Solutions is installing, configuring, and maintaining the network radio equipment.
Google is sponsoring the trial and using its Spectrum Database to assign channels to the network with data provided by ICASA.

What equipment are you using in trial?
We have tested various equipment and are in the process of performing equipment upgrades and modifications to suit the Trial network performance requirements.

What is the trial and where will it take place?
The trial will provide wireless broadband over TVWS backhaul to 10 schools in the Western Cape. Spectrum measurements will be taken around the area to provide evidence of non-interference with TV broadcast.

When will the trial’s network go live?
Follow the network updates above for the latest information.

Why are you doing the project?
We want to provide sufficient evidence for ICASA to support the unlicensed use of TVWS spectrum in South Africa. We believe that TVWS could help to bridge the digital divide, transmitting Internet data over long distances, opening up access to underserved communities and rural areas. The evidence gathered from the trial intends to show that TVWS can be used for mobile technologies without creating harmful interference with TV broadcast.

How were schools chosen?
The schools have been vetted and selected by e-Schools Network, a local NGO that provides IP services to 1,700 schools in South Africa. The selected schools met certain networking criteria including base station proximity, IT support, and networking capabilities.

Are you going to expand access to other locations?
With the support of ICASA, the partners hope to show the potential for TVWS to improve access in underserved areas and be a viable last mile solution. For now, this is a small trial with a limited scope.

Where have other trials have taken place?
Past trials in the U.S. and United Kingdom have shown that the unlicensed use of TVWS has multiple use cases: rural access, emergency services, and smart grid technology.

When will the technology be widely available?
The technology is currently available, but in many countries regulators must develop the appropriate policy framework to support TVWS technology. This trial will be used to inform the regulatory process in South Africa.

WAPA wishes to thank the partners, particularly Google, for the opportunity to participate in a project of this scope.