The company is also setting up by April a SME Online Hub in Morocco and South Africa, that will provide free products and services from Microsoft and partners that can help SMEs expand their business locally and outside their immediate geography, and get more competitive. "We're also planning to provide free domain registration for one year for those qualifying SMEs who want to create a professional website," Faramawy said.
The broadband pilot in unserved locations near Nanyuki and Kalema in Kenya will use TV white spaces, the unused portions of wireless spectrum in the frequency bands generally used for television, Microsoft said.
Radio signals in the TV bands travel over longer distances and penetrate more obstacles than other types of radio signals, and will require fewer of the solar-powered base stations that the company plans to deploy to provide coverage.
Microsoft is using dynamic spectrum access, which enables wireless devices to opportunistically tap into unused radio spectrum to establish broadband connections, wrote Paul Garnett, director of Microsoft's Technology Policy Group and Louis Otieno, legal and corporate affairs director at Microsoft's Africa Initiatives in a blog post.
The focus of the project goes beyond testing the technical feasibility of using TV white space technology, towards focusing instead on increasing economic opportunities in communities without access to broadband or electricity, Microsoft said. The initial installation near Nanyuki brings access to a healthcare clinic, a primary school, two secondary schools and a community center.
Microsoft has been operating in Africa for 20 years, and has offices in 14 countries. It did not disclose the size of the investment it plans in Africa for the new initiative.