Nigeria’s Rural Communities To Get Affordable Internet Courtesy Of “WhiteSpaces”
The internet penetration in Nigeria is still very wanting, with statistics estimating it to be at 6-7% broadband penetration. However, this is expected to change soon if the endeavours of a Nigerian startup dubbed WhiteSpaces yield fruits; the startup wants to provide cheap and high-speed internet connection mainly to the people living in the rural areas and to low-end users using the TV White Spaces (TVWS) Technology.
TVWS are the vacant frequencies that can be made available for unlicensed use in areas where the spectrum is not in use by a licensed service such as television broadcasting station. The TVSW spectrum can be found between UHF (470-698 MHz) and VHF (54-216 MHz) bands. These spectrums have characteristics that make them highly effective for wireless communications.
WhiteSpaces want to provide Nigeria’s rural areas, internet connection using the UHF signal mainly because it can penetrate the foliage better and works effectively in the difficult terrains. It is also a viable option when it comes to densely populated areas, having demonstrated this before. It is also the ideal spectrum since it can be solar powered.
The founder of WhiteSpaces, Mark Afolabi, who is also the co-founder of Knack International Limited, had the following to say about the startup’s initiative:
“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.”
Currently, WhiteSpaces has launched in private beta and supports 250 beta users mainly comprising of low-end users and rural areas users. It is operating by allocating a free monthly data plan to the users on a monthly basis, but the data is capped at point. But they allow for an upgrade to a paid plan. The paid plans are affordable and provide unlimited data usage, with prices ranging N1,500 to N2,000 ($9 to $12) per month.
Social Architect, Seunfunmi Akinola said, “One of the huge areas we are innovating on is affordable and reliable internet access for education. 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.”
WhiteSpaces will start with the Iworoko Community found in the Ekiti State, Nigeria. The choice of starting with this community is because they have already established a university, public primary school and clinic. WhiteSpaces is competing against already existing ISP and data provides but intends to differentiate itself by offering reliable, cheap and easy to use internet package.