South African regulator proposes freeing up spectrum for Wi-Fi

South African regulator proposes freeing up spectrum for Wi-Fi

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the official regulator of the South African communications, broadcasting and postal services sectors, has suggested making additional radio frequency spectrum available for Wi-Fi broadband through a proposed amendment to regulations.

ICASA has published draft amendment radio frequency regulations that include an updated list of radio apparatus whose use or possession doesn’t require a spectrum licence.

The authority is proposing the incorporation of the key lower 6GHz band (5925MHz to 6425MHz) as well as the 122GHz to 246GHz band for non-specific short-range applications, saying: “This will provide a much-needed boost for Wi-Fi availability and uptake, and is expected to enable faster data communications between devices connected to wireless infrastructure, reduce latency, and improve efficiency and data throughput.”

It added: “The lower 6GHz band is rapidly emerging worldwide as a key component in broadband roll-out and uptake, providing an essential local-loop component to support fibre or fixed-wireless access backhaul and Wi-Fi deployment.”

Local press reports suggests that there has been lobbying by industry players to open up the 6GHz band for Wi-Fi in South Africa, notably to enable Wi-Fi 6E, an evolution of the Wi-Fi 6 standard that exploits the 6GHz band.

Wi-Fi 6E works with the same standard as WiFi 6 but with an extended spectrum, bringing more bandwidth, faster speeds, lower latency, and, potentially, innovations like in AR/VR, 8K streaming and more.

ICASA has announced a deadline of 4pm on 30 January for written submissions on its proposals. 

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