Many Malawians especially those in rural areas will be able to start accessing cheap internet starting this month as part of a project that will be rolled out countrywide.
This will happen as C3 Communications, a communication services provider and the first commercial entity to deploy countrywide TV White Spaces (TVWS) will conduct TVWS trials for a period of nine months countrywide.
Most Malawians living in rural areas are poor and only 6.5 percent are connected to the internet. To reach this population, C3 is building a new network that relies on unused frequencies in the television spectrum called “TV white spaces -TVWS”, with plans to extend it throughout the country.
The connectivity will then be distributed to the user communities with a new efficient and affordable last mile technology using TVWS and Dynamic Spectrum. Users will then access the network via Wi-Fi.
“It’s a cheap and effective way of having internet,” a 17-year-old Elizabeth Kananji, a second year student at the Malawi Polytechnic.
“Not all people are able to access the net as they have to pay the service providers, which is a challenge with the high prices, but with TVWS you don’t have to pay as long as you have your gadgets. You’re good to go, which is amazing,” Kananji told the local press.
Malawi has emerged to be the first country in the world to deploy TVWS nationwide. The project has received praise worldwide, with the United Nations and the International Telecommunications Union saying it is a viable and cost-effective way to reach rural areas with internet services.
Globally, TVWS has provided an alternative means of providing internet to remote and underserved areas without using traditional internet spectrum (radio spectrum), which experts say is becoming congested.
According to the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA), C3 is the only company in Malawi that has shown interest in running the project.
“We are anticipating initial launch of some parts of the infrastructure in November, however, since we are not only looking at TVWS we are building towers, installing Wi-Fi hotspots, backhaul links, some of these will be ready before end November. We can then announce the official launch date,” said Richard Chisala from C3.
He added that the company did research and assessed all the internet service providers in Malawi and found that internet is more expensive in Malawi than in other countries.
Meanwhile, Malawi has just concluded the TVWS technical trial project, a collaborative effort of MACRA, the Chancellor College physics department and Marconi Wireless Lab T/ ICT4D of Italy.
The project is aimed at promoting research and development in the field of ICT, according to MACRA’s Deputy Director of Spectrum Management Jonathan Pinifolo.
The TVWS was piloted in Zomba in 2013 at St Mary’s Secondary School, the Malawi Defence Force’s Air wing, Pirimiti Rural Hospital and the Geological Survey Department.
Malawi is among several countries that carried out a pilot projects. The other countries include U.S., United Kingdom, South Africa and Kenya.