Regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has opened the lower part of the 6GHz spectrum band for Wi-Fi services. Lower 6GHz is the radio frequency range of 5925–6425 MHz band as allocated in the country’s National Radio Frequency Plan.
This happened via an amendment to Annexure B of ICASA’s Radio Frequency Spectrum Regulations, 2015, which consists of a list of types of radio apparatus, the use or possession of which does not require a radio frequency spectrum licence.
ICASA says: “This lower 6GHz frequency band offers several benefits and provides a much-needed boost for the uptake of Wi-Fi services.
“This additional spectrum can support more simultaneous connections, offers reduced latency, delivers faster data speeds, and results in less interference, especially in potential congested high-density areas and campus environments.”
It adds: “The introduction of the lower 6GHz frequency band for the deployment of Wi-Fi services will also support the growth of the digital economy and help to address the digital divide by providing better, more reliable, and affordable connectivity to community access networks in underserved areas.”
Although the use of this spectrum does not require a licence, ICASA says that other regulations still apply, such as devices requiring type approval.
But will this be enough for Wi-Fi proponents? Industry groups the Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA) and the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) recently called on the South African government to exempt 1,200MHz of radio frequency spectrum from licencing, notably the lower 6GHz band between 5,925MHz and 6,425MHz and the upper band from 6,425MHz up to 7,125 MHz.
This could be especially useful for the newest generation of Wi-Fi, known as Wi-Fi 6E (Wi-Fi 6 extended), which offers multi-gigabit, low latency connections.