Dabba are a South African company that have been operating a prototype Village Telco network in the Orange Farm township near Johannesburg. It’s fair to say that Dabba inspired much of the Village Telco project. They use unlicensed 2.4 GHz spectrum to run VOIP over Wifi links. The result is disadvantaged people get a telephone at a reasonable cost.
A few days ago the South African communications regulator (ICASA) confiscated Dabba’s Wifi equipment with zero notice. Just stompted in and took it, apparently based on a complaint by the incumbent South African Telco (Telkom) regarding interference. There has been no explanation by ICASA of the actual technical problem, and no evidence of any interference. The Wifi equipment was type approved (this means samples have been rigorously tested to prove they do not interfere with other services).
Dabba was proving Internet and Phone service to a skills development centre, an aids orphanage, and an Internet cafe. On line communities are outraged. Given the amount of evidence provided it sounds like Telkom made an unsubstantiated claim and the regulator jumped in prematurely using a very heavy hand.
The good news is that Rael from Dabba is determined to rebuild the network ASAP – well done Rael and I hope we get some clarity (or an apology) from ICASA soon.