USTDA Expands Affordable Internet Access in South Africa, Creates New U.S. Export Opportunities

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA – Today, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency awarded a grant to South Africa’s Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA) for a pilot project that will help improve internet access for rural and semi-rural areas in South Africa through the use of American TV white space (TVWS) technologies.  

“This grant demonstrates USTDA’s continuing commitment to developing quality and affordable ICT infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Thomas R. Hardy, USTDA’s Acting Director. “Through our Access Africa initiative, USTDA is connecting our African partners with innovative U.S. suppliers of technology ideally suited for the local environment.”

TVWS technology utilizes unused broadcast spectrum to help connect rural and semi-rural customers to affordable internet service. USTDA’s pilot will showcase the technology of Adaptrum, a wireless broadband solutions provider based in San Jose, CA, along with that of other U.S. companies. The consortium carrying out the pilot will be led by Adaptrum and includes Microsoft and International Data Corporation (IDC) of Framingham, MA. USTDA’s pilot will help WAPA promote TVWS networks to its wireless internet service provider member companies.

“We are extremely pleased to partner with USTDA to evaluate the viability of TVWS in South Africa. The pilot will benefit our members and ultimately the communities they serve,” said Paul Colmer, Executive Committee Member and Pilot Project Lead.  “This support from USTDA will be invaluable in bridging the digital divide, which is of critical importance to community upliftment.”

“Since deploying the first TVWS system in Africa, Adaptrum has seen the huge potential of this technology to bring much-needed connectivity to unserved communities,” said Haiyun Tang, CEO of Adaptrum. “With this pilot, which brings together local stakeholders as well as leading experts spanning technology and financing, we are aiming to build a sustainable business model to provide affordable broadband using TVWS across South Africa, which can be replicated over a large percentage of rural Africa.”

Political and Economic Chief for the U.S. Consulate General in Durban Hala Rharrit signed the grant on behalf of USTDA, along with WAPA Executive Committee Member Paul Colmer.

This project supports Prosper Africa, a U.S. government initiative to substantially increase two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa.