Licensed but unutilized television (TV) band spectrum is called as TV white space in the literature. International Telecommunication Union (ITU) define TV white spaces as the unused portions of spectrum allocated for TV broadcasting in continuous or discontinuous manner or in geographical setting, also referred to as interleaved spectrum (ITU, 2012).
In this project, the licensed but unused UHF TV Spectrum bands ranging from 470 – 694 MHz will be used by White Space Devices for wireless broadband communication in rural Tanzania. This is spectrum band is currently allocated for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) after the digital switchover in Tanzania.
Tanzania has experienced an exponential increase in the number of voice telephone and Internet users in the last few years. The number of voice telephone subscribers has increased from 6.3 million users in March, 2007 to 39.9 million users in March, 2017 (TCRA, 2007; TCRA, 2017) and the estimated number of Internet users has increased from 5.3 to 19.9 million in 2011 to 2016 respectively (TCRA, 2017). Despite of the increase of both voice subscribers and internet users both studies have reported that there is still a large Internet gap between rural and urban areas in Tanzania. According to Research ICT Africa (RIA) statistics, 86% of rural dwellers remain unconnected to the Internet compared to 44.6% in urban areas (RIA, 2017). Also, when the comparison is made based on gender, fewer women than men have access and use Internet. This project will build a pilot using TV White Space equipment as a community network solution to bridge the identified access gap between rural and urban areas. It aims to improve the life of people in rural areas thus reducing their incentives to migrate to urban areas. Mobile operators are normally reluctant to invest in the deployment of Internet infrastructure in rural areas due to the fact that the return of investment (RoI) takes much longer as compared to urban areas, since the number of possible clients per square area is much lower, as well as the percentage of those that can afford the payment of the service. We target rural and remote areas of Dodoma Region, where conventional deployments are not available.
The Internet connected network will be owned and operated by community-based secondary schools in Dodoma Region. The experience gained from this pilot will be very valuable for fulfilling similar needs in other rural areas. All the TV WS hardware required for the project has already been acquired by the University of Dodoma; this project will focus on deploying it in a community network and assess its effect in the living conditions of the target population. It must be emphasized that College of Informatics and Virtual Education have secured an authorization letter to use TV UHF spectrum band (i.e 470 – 694 MHz) from Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), which not only clears the main obstacle for TVWS projects, but also paves the way of the use of this technology in the rest of the country, if the results of this project meet expectations.