Communities in the township across the country could look forward to having unlimited access to a reliable, efficient and affordable internet services thanks to a new broadband initiative by Technology Innovative Agency (TIA).
TIA, an entity of the Department of Science and Technology (DSI), has provided funding to a start-up company “to develop an alternative antenna-based high-speed fixed internet solution for low-income communities”.
Called FibrePoynt (Pty) Ltd, the start-up entity will develop internet or wireless communication system to serve as an alternative or supplementary to fibre to the home (FTTH) underground or overhead cable technology.
TIA said the technology will enable the country to respond to the socio-economic challenges it is currently wrestling with. The intention of the initiative is to broaden internet access to everyone irrespective of their socio-economic status and geographic location.
The initiative will see Iow to middle income peri-urban and township households connect to the internet which was not possible with current technologies.
This will also solve signal strength problems and costs typically found in existing “last mile” antenna wireless rollouts. The innovation also aims to empower internet network owners to be able to deliver internet to more homes at affordable rates than it is currently possible. The roll-out of the network will be done without trenching underground fibre in the last-mile connection to homes thus reducing infrastructure costs by more than 50%.
TIA said the technology uses passive beam forming, beam pattern diversity and beam shaping to get the best possible signal to the home units which then provide Wi-Fi for the end user devices to connect to. This technology has been proven to work in the marketplace and it is currently being commercialised for mass adoption and production.
Sipho Dikweni, TIA’s portfolio commercialisation manager, said the technology is backed up by an innovative and sustainable business model. He said it is also an inclusive model that will empower local entrepreneurs with skills and provide them an opportunity to operate and expand it to their localities. “Local empowerment is the critical antidote to socio-economic ills. We call upon follow on funders and Network Operators to support the full-scale commercialisation of this exciting and impactful technology.”
FibrePoynt (Pty) Ltd is funded through TIA’s commercialisation wing in the Information Communication and Technology unit (ICT). The ICT unit supports the development and exploitation of ICT-driven innovations with a broad socio-economic impact. These innovations focus on areas such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data and Block Chain, wireless connectivity and scalable ICT inclusive innovations, making it possible to address the challenges of unemployment, inequality, and poverty.
TIA has been actively involved throughout the development of the FibrePoynt project providing both financial and non-financial support to ensure the project becomes a success. The project has strong intellectual property, an innovative business model and demonstrates South Africa’s contribution and competitiveness in knowledge-based economies.
FibrePoynt chief executive officer, Eduard Walker said: “We want to use this innovation to tackle digital inequality,” adding that their solution is aimed at ensuring that “the neglected obtain real internet in their homes and surrounding neighbourhoods on their smart devices”.
FibrePoynt has launched another innovation called HomePoynt carved out of the core FibrePoynt wireless technology and also funded by TIA. Walker said HomePoynt is more critical during the Covid-19 pandemic as everyone is forced to remain indoors and connected to high-speed internet. He said this would “improve access to critical services like home-schooling to a larger proportion of the population”.
Another added advantage of HomePoynt solution is that it has the potential to bring down internet costs to as low as R89.00 a month for uncapped Wi-Fi. The technology would not only ensure townships, peri-urban and small towns are connected to the internet but it will also help close the digital divide in under-served areas.
To date FibrePoynt has developed an internet service provider (ISP) model, termed Kasiwave. This facilitates the skills transfer to the local communities to build and maintain the network infrastructure. The goal is to ensure that 20% of the revenue generation remains in the local communities.