THE CAPE TOWN TV WHITE SPACES TRIAL
TENET participates with a number of partners in the operation of the Cape Town TV White Spaces Trial Network.
With the support of ICASA, the communications regulator of South Africa, a group of partners implemented a TVWS trial network covering ten schools in the Western Cape over a six month period during 2013. The trial partners include TENET, CSIR Meraka, e-Schools Network, WAPA and Google, with Comsol Wireless Solutions, Carlson Wireless Technologies and Neul as the vendor partners. The goals of the trial was to:
- Demonstrate that TVWS can be used to deliver affordable broadband and Internet services without interfering with TV reception
- Increase awareness of the potential for TVWS technology in South Africa and across the continent.
The partners periodically updated ICASA, Sentech, the Joint Spectrum Advisory Group, broadcasters and other constituents on trial outcomes, including spectrum measurements and reported interference. The results of the trial are to be officially released at a Report Back event on November 8th, 2013 at the CSIR Building in Pretoria.
The TVWS network consistc of multiple base stations located at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in Tygerburg, Cape Town, which deliver broadband Internet service to ten schools within a 10 kilometer radius. The ten schools have been pre-selected based on proximity to the base station, local IT and network support, and other connectivity requirements. Each school receives dedicated 2.5 Mbps service with failover to ADSL in order to prevent downtime during school hours.
- Download throughput tests (weekly) – here.
- Upload throughput tests (weekly) – here.
- Latency tests (weekly) – here (Note: Latencies are due to development level software defined radios, as opposed to production level chip-based systems).
- Live traffic graphs – here (Note: Once landing on the graphs page, scroll down to see the TVWS graphs).
- November 8, 2013: Trial Report Back event hosted with ICASA.
- September 25, 2013: The CT TVWS Trial officially ends*.
- March 25, 2013: Network launch event hosted with ICASA.
- January 2013: Network equipment is being installed, configured and tested in preparation for launch.
- November 1 – 7, 2012: Completed pre-installations of network equipment at partner schools.
- October 15, 2012: 10 schools selected after extensive IT audits to meet network requirements.
- September 25, 2012: Selected WAPA member Comsol Wireless Solutions as the network system integrator.
- September 12, 2012: ICASA issues permission to Meraka and its partners to set up a TV White Space network in the Western Cape.
*Although the Trial has ended, on August 28, 2013, ICASA accepted a set of recommendations by Meraka, specifically to allow the Trial network to remain operational, providing broadband to schools.
TVWS Interference Management Protocol
The purpose of the trial is to establish whether interference is caused, and we have reporting mechanisms built into the trial. If someone’s TV signal is interfered with, they should report it to their TV service provider, as they normally would. All reported instances will be checked and accounted for based on the TVWS Interference Management Protocol.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why are you doing a trial?
South Africa has expressed early interest in TVWS technology. In October 2011, government officials, regulators, and industry leaders gathered at an event hosted by APC, WAPA and Google Africa to discuss the benefits of this emerging technology. ICASA recognized the opportunity to use TVWS to provide Internet services and, with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is exploring how TVWS could be applied. ICASA will use data from the trial to inform the rulemaking process.
What are TV White Spaces?
TV White spaces are the unused channels in the broadcast TV spectrum. New radio and database technologies allow that spectrum to be used to transmit wireless Internet over distances up to ten kilometers. As a result, white spaces can be used to deploy broadband access and other mobile data technologies.
How did the partners come together? Who initiated the trial?
The partners came together at a one-day conference in October 2011 to discuss the future of TVWS technology in South Africa. The event was hosted by APC, WAPA, and Google Africa. ICASA, the South African communications regulator, granted CSIR Meraka and its partners permission to conduct the trial in Cape Town.
Who is involved in the trial?
CSIR Meraka has permission to operate the network through a group of partners and will perform spectrum field measurements to demonstrate non-interference.
TENET is managing the network and providing IP transit.
e-Schools Network is providing support services to the partner schools.
WAPA has sourced local vendors to deploy the network.
Comsol Wireless Solutions installed and are maintaining the network radio equipment.
Google is sponsoring the trial and using its Spectrum Database to assign channels to the network with data provided by ICASA.
What equipment are you using in trial?
The trial is using radios and software by Carlson Wireless and Neul. Speeds vary from 1-10mbps depending on network load and location. Browse through the TVWS traffic graphs here (Note: Once landing on the graphs page, scroll down to see the TVWS graphs).
What is the trial and where will it take place?
The trial will provide wireless broadband over TVWS backhaul to 10 schools in the Western Cape. Spectrum measurements will be taken around the area to provide evidence of non-interference with TV broadcast.
Which Schools are Part of the Trial?
We are grateful for the willing participation by the following ten schools: Bellville High School, Cravenby Combined Schools, DF Malan High School, Elswood Secondary School, Fairmont High School, Norwood Primary School, Parow High School, President High School, Range Secondary School and Settlers High School.
How were schools chosen?
The schools have been vetted and selected by e-Schools Network, a local NGO that provides IP services to 1,700 schools in South Africa. The selected schools met certain networking criteria including base station proximity, IT support, and networking capabilities.
When will the trial’s network go live?
The network is live. During this time we will be taking frequent reliability tests and interference measurements.
Why are you doing the project?
We want to provide sufficient evidence for ICASA to support the unlicensed use of TVWS spectrum in South Africa. We believe that TVWS could help to bridge the digital divide, transmitting Internet data over long distances, opening up access to underserved communities and rural areas. The evidence gathered from the trial intends to show that TVWS can be used for mobile technologies without creating harmful interference with TV broadcast.
What are the regulatory issues at stake here?
Currently there is no regulation around TVWS globally. It’s a technology which is still being explored. Regulators like Ofcom in the UK are working to create new regulatory models. We hope that ICASA will use the trial results to start thinking about a model for South Africa.
Are you going to expand access to other locations?
With the support of ICASA, the partners hope to show the potential for TVWS to improve access in underserved areas and be a viable last mile solution. For now, this is a small trial with a limited scope.
Where have other trials have taken place?
Past trials in the U.S. and United Kingdom have shown that the unlicensed use of TVWS has multiple use cases: rural access, emergency services, and smart grid technology.
When will the technology be widely available?
The technology is currently available, but in many countries regulators must develop the appropriate policy framework to support TVWS technology. This trial will be used to inform the regulatory process in South Africa.
What are the implications here for operators and broadcasters?
The trial is designed to explore whether TVWS are a viable solution for providing broadband to more people in SA. Once that’s established, it’s up to ICASA to guide regulation.
Why are you doing this with digital migration just round the corner? What impact will digital migration have on TVWS trials?
In principle, when we switch over to digital broadcasting, there will be more unused spectrum, and TVWS technology will likely be even more relevant and useful.
Is this part of the scramble for digital dividends (the digital spectrum leftover)?
No it’s not. The technology only uses free unused spectrum, whether analog or digital.
How long will the trial run?
The Trial ran for 6 months, ending September 25, 2013. The Network remains operational.
Elyssa D. Durant. Ed.M.Research & Policy Analyst