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Lack of regulation delays TV White Space Internet rollout

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Lack of regulations to govern the implementation of the Television White Space Devices has affected plans to roll out the project countrywide, The Daily Times has learnt.

According to the Director of Television White Space Project (TVWS) in Malawi, who is also senior lecturer in the Department of Physics at the Chancellor College, Chomora Mikeka, TVWS is a technology that can extend coverage and usability of internet services in the country at an affordable cost using the identified gaps (white spaces) in the TV UHF Band.

Ironically, government has been sitting on this goldmine by not adopting regulations to govern the Television White Space Devices, specifications and operations.

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“The process of adopting the regulations is slow, slower than we had planned. There is huge interest from government departments, ministries and donors but the government is insensitive to adopt TVWS regulations,” said Mikeka.

The pilot phase of the project, which was implemented at Likangala, St. Mary’s and Mulanje secondary schools; Pirimiti Community Health Centre, Geological Survey, and Malawi Defence Force Airwing , registered tremendous results through enhanced research and virtual interaction with the central administration of their respective branches.

At Pirimiti Community Hospital, TVWS supported research and experiments in virtual diagnosis and real-time X-Ray image transport.

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On the international scene, the United Nations and the International Telecommunications Union cited the TVWS Project in its 2015 Broad Band Report released last week, as a viable and cost-effective way to reach rural areas with internet services.

Meanwhile, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) convened a stakeholders meeting in Lilongwe on Monday where the TVWS statutes were presented for a possible review.

Macra Deputy Director for Spectrum Management, Jonathan Phinifolo, expressed optimism that the regulations would be gazetted by December 2015 and that operationalisation may be done in January 2016.

“We invited telecommunications operators, broadcasters, and entrepreneurs so that they can sample the regulations and make their comments and propose any change if possible,” said Phinifolo.

Malawi became the third country in Africa to implement TVWS after South Africa and Kenya but it became a unique case after local ICT experts from Chancellor College implemented it in collaboration with Macra.

Google and Microsoft implemented TVWS in Kenya and South Africa and the two multinationals have been visiting Malawi to assess the viability of TVWS in the country.

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