Microsoft is in talks with Mweb and Telkom to partner on its Limpopo white spaces broadband project, according to Bloomberg.
In July, Microsoft launched a trial in Limpopo making use of unused TV spectrum (TV “white spaces”) to provide Internet access in SA townships.
According to a Bloomberg article, Microsoft is looking for potential partnerships with local ISPs, including Naspers-owned Mweb and state-owned telco, Telkom.
Mweb CEO, Derek Hershaw has held discussions in recent weeks with Microsoft, according to the report, though the company isn’t currently involved in the project.
Telkom declined to comment on the matter, while a Microsoft spokeswoman in Johannesburg said that the company is looking for multiple partners for the project.
White spaces project in SA
According to Microsoft, the pilot is a joint project between it, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the University of Limpopo, and local network builder Multisource.
The University of Limpopo will be used as a hub for the TV white spaces deployment, Microsoft said.
Microsoft said that while it is a bit premature to quote pricing without a defined service model, it believes that stating the goal of delivering a basic tier of broadband access at an average cost of R20-R50 per month is reasonable.
The project forms a part of the Microsoft 4Afrika intitiative which was launched in February 2013, which aims to boost economic development in Africa, and tackle issues such as unemployment and Internet penetration.
“The key point here is that the cost of bandwidth will be significantly lower than other alternatives and that white spaces creates opportunities to deliver an affordable tier of broadband access to consumers,” Microsoft told MyBroadband.
“We are being led by a generation that does not fully understand the value of this IT infrastructure,” Microsoft South Africa Managing Director, Mteto Nyati, reportedly said.
“The barrier for people to either get our services or buy our services is the connectivity.”
The Microsoft white space trials join similar trials being run by Google in the Cape Town area.