In a move expected to deliver affordable and high speed internet to millions of unserved and underserved Nigerians, WhiteSpaces has launched in private beta with 250 beta users with focus on low end users and rural areas using TV WhiteSpaces technology.
According to founder Mark Afolabi, ” Internet access is a really big deal, with the 6-7% broadband penetration in Nigeria the Internet and the Web have transformed our lives and the way we live. Looking forward, we are seeing even more exciting developments and opportunities that will provide more benefits to more people in more places. We want to bring this opportunity to the unserved and underserved people. They’re going to use it to decide what kind of government they want, get access to quality and affordable health care for the first time ever, experience Education in a new dimension.”
TV white spaces are unused gaps between TV channels in the UHF spectrum. Since fewer TV stations broadcast in rural areas, TV white-space technology is a highly effective choice for rural communities, especially because UHF signal can penetrate foliage and works well in difficult terrain. White space is also a viable option for more densely-populated areas, as urban demonstrations have shown and can be powered with solar. Microsoft 4Afrika and Google have piloted similar services in Kenya, South Africa and Ghana and now the startup says it wants use the same technology to bring high speed access to Nigeria.
“One of the huge areas we are innovating on is affordable and reliable internet access for education,” said Social architect Seunfunmi Akinola.”WhiteSpaces will bridge the gap in the quality of online education and access and give kids and youth in underserved communities new opportunities to learn and acquire the skills that are essential to succeed in modern society regardless of their backgrounds”
WhiteSpacesh has a free plan that allocates free monthly data to users on a monthly basis, this data would be capped, and allows upgrade for paid plans, while affordable paid plans will provide unlimited data to user for between N1,500 to N2,000 monthly.
Segun Fagbami adds that the private beta will allow the firm to deploy high speed internet starting with Iworoko community in Ekiti State Nigeria.
“This community has a university, public primary schools and a clinic established there, further understand community needs and tailor local contents and opportunities to users and also encourage regulatory bodies to accelerate regulations and policies that will enable WhiteSpaces on the promise of universal access,” Fagbami said.
WhiteSpaces competitors include existing ISP’s and data providers. WhiteSpaces aims to differentiates itself in the market on ease of use, affordability and reliability.
In South Africa, Alan Knott-Craig’s Project Isizwe aims to provide free Wi-Fi to low income communities in South Africa.