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SCIENCE IN THE NEWS - 'White Spaces' Gives Ghanaians Less Costly Internet

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'White Spaces' Gives Ghanaians Less Costly Internet
'White Spaces' Gives Ghanaians Less Costly Internet

Broadband Internet service can be costly. Some countries do not have the high-speed Internet because of the costs involved. But Microsoft Corporation and other companies have found a way to bring low-cost, high-speed Internet service to Ghana. They are turning to some very high and ultra-high frequency bands to do so. These bands are set aside for aircraft, television broadcasts and other communications. But the frequencies have yet to be used and are sometimes called "white spaces."

Sean Sealey is chief executive officer of SpectraLink Wireless. His company and Microsoft are partners. He says their program provides students in rural Ghana with Internet service within "five kilometers away from the university." The students get "10-20 times more than what they would get through mobile operators at the same price," he says.

Mr. Sealey adds that "some students might be buying 20 megabytes of data for about 30 U.S. cents." But the program provides one day of unlimited data for about 60 cents.

The program combines Wi-Fi wireless technology with white spaces to provide Internet access to Ghana. Recently, the program became the first of its kind to commercialize this kind of network, or system.

Sean Sealey says television white spaces can be thought of as super Wi-Fi. They can reach further than normal Wi-Fi and are less costly. Both Microsoft and SpectraLink Wireless worked with Ghanaian officials to get use of the unused television frequencies.

Frank McCosker directs the program for Microsoft. He says the program is part of the company's $75 million 4Afrika initiative. Mr. McCosker says he wants the program to "accelerate some certain actions within Africa."

The actions include investing in new businesses and new technologies. They also include training and partnerships with businesses in a number of countries, including Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya and Namibia.

Mr. McCosker says the program works to find different ways to make Internet service more affordable. He says they are working to provide Internet connectivity in "parts of countries which are not connected at all."

Mr. Sealey says he expects Internet service costs to drop in the area as "white spaces" connectivity becomes more available. SpectraLink Wireless now plans to take "white spaces" Internet access to Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Cameroon.

Mr. Sealey says SpectraLink Wireless has worked on this technology for the past three years. They partnered with Microsoft over a year ago. Mr. Sealey says the companies have "achieved something that is unique … and we hope that we will grow it massively in the next few years so everybody can get affordable access to broadcast Internet, which will change lives."

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Aida Akl reported this story from Washington. Jonathan Evans wrote it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

frequency – n., the number of times that something happens; the number of times that something is repeated (like a radio wave)

accelerate – v. to move faster; to gain speed

affordable – adj. something that can be paid for or done without any problems

commercialize v. to make something available to individuals and businesses

initiative – n. a plan or program that is meant to solve a problem

Wi-Fin. a local area wireless network that allows an electronic device to participate in computer networking

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