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“White Space” Signals May Be the Key to Connecting Africa 

Although Africa is the second-largest continent on the planet, both in terms of land mass and population, only a small portion of people have access to the internet. As large tech companies scratch their heads over how to utilize this untapped market, a solution to wide-scale connectivity has seemingly been found.

Currently, users in Africa make up only 7% of the world’s total internet connections, with internet only available to around 15.6% of the total population. One of the major problems faced by Africans who wish to connect to the internet is the fact that most service providers and mobile companies are unwilling to go to the expense of building the costly infrastructure it would take to bring coverage to the many vast and rural areas. The solution to this problem seems to rely in what is being referred to as “white space” signals.

White spaces refer to the empty transmission frequencies which were once used to transmit analogue television channels, but which have largely been abandoned in the developed world. In Africa however, where some countries have few or no television broadcasts, these transmission channels seem like the perfect medium for allowing wireless internet connectivity. Currently, technology giant Microsoft is running a pilot program to test these connections in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.

White space transmissions seem like the ideal solution for Africa not only because of their availability, but their broadcast range. It is estimated that a wireless signal transmitting across white space frequencies could travel as far as 6 miles, allowing internet connectivity even in remote locations.

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