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Regulator on the spot over delays in spectrum project

By Frankline Sunday | January 20th 2021 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Communications Authority of Kenya's Nairobi Headquarter (PHOTO: FILE)

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) is in a spot for delays in implementation of a project meant to offer affordable broadband access to rural communities.   

This comes on the back of rising demand for broadband connectivity, fueled by the Covid-19, which has seen several Kenyans working and attending school from their homes.

In 2012, CA invited bids from internet service providers to develop pilot broadband solutions under the TV white spaces.

This entailed exploiting unused spectrum freed by the country’s migration from analogue to digital broadcasting.

The following year, Microsoft made a successful application and launched Mawingu Networks as a proof of concept.

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However, over the years, little headway has been made towards licensing service providers to deploy commercial solutions. Last year, CA invited the public to give comments on a spectrum access framework meant to provide the policy direction in the massive project.      

“CA plans to authorise the commercial deployments for TV white spaces, mainly for fixed broadband services, in the 470-694 MHz UHF Spectrum band, currently allocated to the broadcasting service on a primary basis as provided in the National Table of Frequency Allocations,” CA said in the draft Dynamic Spectrum Access Framework. 

“TV White Space Devices shall be authorised to operate in areas where specific channels are unused for Digital Terrestrial Television broadcasting,” the policy paper said in part. 

Though deployed in several developed countries to commercial success, Kenya is one of a few countries in Africa that are at the policy stage of implementing TV white spaces. 

Frequency spectrum

Last year, Strathmore University won a grant from UK’s Department for International Development as part of research efforts in the sector.

CA is also engaging telecoms to reach consensus over the frequency spectrum management guidelines released last year. 

Some of the proposals  CA has put forward include setting aside spectrum for use by the State and counties as well as enhanced penalties for interference and under-utilisation of spectrum by service providers.

However, some service providers including Safaricom have objected to some of the CA’s new proposals, including exemption of some firms from paying spectrum fees.

Safaricom Communications Authority of Kenya Mawingu Networks
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