TV White Spaces to improve broadband access in the health sector

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

Botswana Innovation Hub in collaboration with Microsoft Corporation, University of Pennsylvania, BoFiNet, USAID - NetHope and other private sector partners will launch Project Kgolagano on Thursday 12th March, 2015 at Tsopeng Clinic in Lobatse.

Kgolagano means, ‘to be connected or networked,’ and Project Kgolagano is a pilot project that uses TV White Spaces to promote greater access to broadband internet. 

TV White Space technology enables the delivery of broadband using dynamic spectrum access. This enables the use of unused spectrum on the frequency range commonly used to deliver television channels referred to as TV White Space or TVWS. The technology has the potential of providing cheaper broadband internet connectivity to areas that were previously underserved or not reticulated with fibre network.

The emerging technology is being piloted globally and in four other countries on the African continent. Botswana Innovation Hub has secured the license to pilot the TV White Space technology from the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA). The Kgolagano pilot project is the first pilot site to focus on telemedicine and will bring internet access to hospitals and clinics, facilitating a remote diagnosis network and supporting local healthcare services delivery.

The pilot project will run in three towns, Lobatse, Francistown and Maun. The hospitals to be connected are Athlone Hospital in Lobatse, Nyangabwe Hospital in Francistown, and Letsholathebe II Memorial Hospital in Maun. In addition, Tsopeng clinic in Lobatse, Donga clinic in Francistown and Moeti clinic, Boseja clinic, Maun clinic, Sedie clinic ad Maun General Clinic will also be connected. 

Project Kgolagano marks a major milestone in the adoption of cutting edge technology and advancement of the national innovation capital. 

In telecommunications, white spaces refer to frequencies allocated to a broadcasting service but not used locally. National and international bodies assign different frequencies for specific uses, and in most cases license the rights to broadcast over these frequencies.

This frequency allocation process creates a bandplan, which for technical reasons assigns white space between used radio bands or channels to avoid interference.

In this case, while the frequencies are unused, they have been specifically assigned for a purpose, such as a guard band. Most commonly however, these white spaces exist naturally between used channels, since assigning nearby transmissions to immediately adjacent channels will cause destructive interference to both.

In addition to white space assigned for technical reasons, there is also unused radio spectrum which has either never been used, or is becoming free as a result of technical changes. In particular, the switchover to digital television frees up large areas between about 50 MHz and 700 MHz. This is because digital transmissions can be packed into adjacent channels, while analogue ones cannot. This means that the band can be "compressed" into fewer channels, while still allowing for more transmissions.

Meanwhile, Botswana Innovation Hub led a well-attended forum showcasing the innovation from Finland through Demola Networks.    

Project Kgolagano will provide internet connectivity and telemedicine services to local hospitals and clinics.

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