There should be greater access to wireless internet services in rural and semi-rural parts of the country in the not too distant future, as the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has announced the awarding of a grant to SA’s Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA).

It’s being carried out with the help of American TV white space (TVWS) technologies the USDTA confirms, with pilot sites set for launch in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.

“This grant demonstrates USTDA’s continuing commitment to developing quality and affordable ICT infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Thomas R. Hardy, USTDA’s acting director.

“Through our Access Africa initiative, USTDA is connecting our African partners with innovative U.S. suppliers of technology ideally suited for the local environment,” he adds.

For those unfamiliar with TVWS, it utilises unused broadcast spectrum to help connect rural and semi-rural customers to affordable internet service. In the case of this most recently announced pilot project, the USTDA has tapped Adaptrum, a wireless broadband solutions provider based in San Jose, California, along with that of other US companies in order to carry it out.

“We are extremely pleased to partner with USTDA to evaluate the viability of TVWS in South Africa. The pilot will benefit our members and ultimately the communities they serve,” noted Paul Colmer, executive committee member and pilot project lead.

“This support from USTDA will be invaluable in bridging the digital divide, which is of critical importance to community upliftment,” he concludes.

At this stage no precise timeline has been outlined for the pilot project, or indeed which areas of the aforementioned provinces the USTDA plans to roll out the initiative.

It’s also unclear what level of internet access the project aims to deliver, but at the very least, setting up some sort of infrastructure is a good step.

[Image – Photo by Jadon Kelly]