The Internet is something that most people in the world have heard of, although in many parts of the world, it is still not readily available. Here in South Africa, major population centres such as Johannesburg and Cape Town, certainly have a couple of different ways of accessing the Web. One is through high-speed landline connections, such as coaxial cables; there are also cellular signals that are received by wireless devices, such as smartphones and tablets. But in many parts of the country, as well as a large portion of Africa itself, neither is available. The expense for mobile operators to set up these cellular networks is often gigantic and sometimes, unfortunately, cost prohibitive. But some of the leading Internet companies are finding a new solution to the problem: your television set.
Making the Most of an Opportunity
Sometimes, the news is really quite sad. At Cape Town’s Elswood Secondary School, heavy metal grates did not deter thieves from literally pulling out copper wires that provided the school with Internet service. The principal, teachers and students were really not sure what to do next. But a friendly giant, in the form of the Internet powerhouse Google, stepped in to provide a solution. What they did was devise a way to use unused bandwidth in the local television signal, often referred to as white space (those areas on a regular television where there is no channel available) to actually create a connection to the Internet. In many ways, it makes perfect sense. After all, television signals and cellular signals are all just radio waves, operating at different frequencies. If you can figure out how to adapt the television signal to provide an Internet connection, the problem is solved.
The Last Untapped Market
Africa unfortunately lags behind the rest of the world, in terms of access to the Internet. Of the billion or so people who inhabit the continent, only about 16% of them have access. By comparison, this is less than half the penetration rate in Asia, which also has a fairly large landmass and billions of residents. Because there are very few landlines, most people in Africa communicate via cellular phones and if possible, the new smartphones which allow easy access to the Internet. This has increased the use of broadband usage (which is used for accessing the Internet) from just 2% two years ago to 11% this year. Obviously, the trend shows that there is a need for a simple and cost-effective solution to the needs of the population. In this regard, Google is leading the way, with their efforts to exploit the television bandwidth, followed closely by Microsoft, who is doing the same thing.
Keeping an Organisation on the Cutting Edge
Especially in South Africa, companies recognise that the rising access to the Internet can both present an opportunity and a problem. As their networks become more complex, handling more data, more information and more Internet related work, their networks can become slow and inefficient. Network performance optimization is something that every company should initiate, so that they can get the most productivity out of their employees and maximise their profits.