Most communications policies around the globe have been developed on models based on the economic, political and social realities of North America and Europe – which assume large private companies build expansive national wired infrastructures. So laws and regulations have evolved with the understanding that these wired networks are the main communication infrastructure and that wireless networks connect through them. But wired networks do not exist in many developing countries and do not necessarily need to be built.
Together with CIESPAL and with the support of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), APC has developed seven videos that explain what radio spectrum is and how it can affect our rights.
The spectrum both surrounds us and passes through us. Made up of waves of energy that allow us to communicate the way we do today – through radio, television, mobile phones, wireless internet and more — spectrum is an invisible common link that ties our societies together. A global shift in spectrum regulation is currently under way with regulatory reforms being developed and proposed in several countries. As the internet and wireless communication increasingly merge into a singular form of communication, we will be presented with unique opportunities to adapt to open, trusting and collaborative forms of regulation and technology use. This introduction to developing a policy on open spectrum by spectrum expert Evan Light for APC, breaks down what spectrum is, how it works and why governments with under-served communities stand to gain so much from opening up the spectrum to more users and uses.
In April 2013, the South African government published their proposal for a national broadband policy with the aim of ensuring “universal service and access to reliable, affordable and secure broadband services by all citizens prioritising, rural and under-serviced areas.” These are the comments officially submitted by APC.
“Open spectrum is important because access is important” says Steve Song, telecommunications fellow at the Shuttleworth Foundation in an interview with APCNews. But in South Africa, the problem is not lack of access – it’s that access is not affordable. Freeing up wireless spectrum, such as television white spaces —the space between channels— or making more information available on spectrum that is currently not in use could help to make affordable access a reality. Song is the author of a new country survey report commissioned by APC in which he explores how spectrum is currently managed in South Africa, and the barriers that are blocking availability.
Unused TV white spaces could be the way to get highspeed wireless internet to millions living outside major African cities. Manufacturers are gearing up for mass production of white space devices and now is the time to act. APC and partners are coordinating an important workshop for govt officials, regulators and professionals in October.
“We have the skills, the entrepreneurs, a spectrum model we can replicate, the standards, the technology and clearly we have the demand” said South African Henk Kleynhans in the wake of a TV white spaces workshop in Johannesburg last week. “All we need is a regulatory go-ahead.”