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Microsoft starts trial in Limpopo to spread web access

by Nadeer on 2013-08-26 at 09:39:29


HAVING failed to bring affordable internet to the continent’s largest economy in almost 20 years of democracy, the government is giving Microsoft a shot.The software maker began a trial in Limpopo last month that taps unused slices of television spectrum to provide online access to remote townships. Potential partners include state-controlled Telkom and MWEB ISP, a unit of Africa’s biggest media company Naspers, said two people familiar with the matter, asking not to be identified because the discussions are confidential.

 

South Africa remains one of the world’s stragglers in internet access, with average broadband speeds lagging behind smaller economies including Uganda and Azerbaijan, according to netindex.com.

The latest test is a chance for Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft to catch up with Google in the country’s smartphone and cloud-computing markets. Google is also testing the use of so-called white spaces with a project spanning 10 schools in the Cape Town area.

"We are being led by a generation that does not fully understand the value of this IT (information technology) infrastructure," Microsoft SA MD Mteto Nyati said this month. "The barrier for people to either get our services or buy our services is the connectivity."

 

In an e-mailed statement, MWEB ISP said its CEO, Derek Hershaw, had held discussions in recent weeks with Microsoft, although the company was not currently involved in the project. A representative for Telkom declined to comment.

 

A Microsoft spokeswoman in Johannesburg said the software company was looking for multiple partners for the project.

Slow connections limit the ability of businesses to grow and hurt South Africa’s economy, which will probably expand 2% this year, compared with 5.6% in sub-Saharan Africa, according to forecasts from the International Monetary Fund.

Of every 100 people in South Africa, 2.18 had a broadband fixed-line subscription last year, less than half the number in Vietnam and Peru, according to the World Bank.

 

A Microsoft spokeswoman in Johannesburg said the software company was looking for multiple partners for the project.

Slow connections limit the ability of businesses to grow and hurt South Africa’s economy, which will probably expand 2% this year, compared with 5.6% in sub-Saharan Africa, according to forecasts from the International Monetary Fund.



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