AfriCanopy makes use of latest generation Television White Space (TVWS) transmission and Mesh Wi-Fi technologies, along with custom-developed rapidly deployable infrastructure, and a unique income-generating model for entrepreneurs within the trial area. Each of these areas demonstrates significant innovation, not only in technology, but also in facilitating the creation of multiple small businesses to enable the network to function, whilst also providing ancillary services to the local community
TV White Spaces are those portions of UHF terrestrial television spectrum that are not used by broadcasters at a specific location. These frequencies have useful characteristics, allowing them to travel longer distances than cellular frequencies, and also have better in-building penetration. Suitable low-power devices can be used to build a network without causing any interference to TV broadcasters or their viewers. However, as these devices are not yet in mainstream usage, they remain very expensive, which is a significant obstacle to using them to provide low-cost connectivity to the rural poor. AfriCanopy’s solution to this is to use advanced Wi-Fi devices to connect people’s cellphones or tablets in the immediate location of the TVWS device, and to create a mesh Wi-Fi network to connect neighbouring villages too.
AfriCanopy’s solution for providing rural connectivity rests on several pillars:
- Large scale usage of third generation TVWS equipment. This equipment is an order of magnitude more capable than any TVWS equipment previously deployed in Africa. It provides for increased range, higher speeds, and granular controllability of the network. As this equipment has not been used in South Africa before, this will also be a Technical Trial. Provisional Type Approval has been obtained. During the Trial, full Type Approval will be obtained for the equipment, making it easier for others to use this same equipment in RSA.
- Rapidly deployable masts. These locally designed masts exceed the performance of any equivalent masts currently available. No foundation or footing is required, and the equipment on the masts is self-powered, so no grid connection is required.
- The innovative marriage of TVWS technology with Wi-Fi Mesh devices increases the flexibility of the network giving low cost coverage of an area such as a group of villages, as well as allowing for coverage in places where the TVWS signal can’t reach, due to the hilly nature of the terrain in the King Cetshwayo District.