Communications regulator Icasa has officially made a large tranche of additional 6E spectrum available to South African users, with immediate effect.
By publishing its amended radio frequency spectrum regulations 2023 [annexure B], Icasa has confirmed that lower-band 6E – that is, spectrum in the 5.925-6.425GHz band range – can now be used for wireless communication, with one catch: that use of this bandwidth is currently limited for low-power transmission only.
The release of this new spectrum is the first step in the much-anticipated release of additional spectrum for both indoor and outdoor use.
Although the current regulations only permit the use of lower-band 6E spectrum for indoor use, that’s still going to open up a big window of opportunity for wireless internet service providers (Wisps) to maximise the potential of their broadband internet services.
Using any number of already-certified 6E devices — routers, handsets and even home entertainment appliances like TVs and other smart devices — users will enjoy a supercharged internet experience, with much higher throughput and speeds, and much lower interference.
Advantages of 6E spectrum
> Reduced WiFi congestion
> Wider channels, with 80MHz and 160MHz bandwidth
>Wireless speeds of over 1Gbit/s
> Extremely low (<1ms) latency
> No overlapping channels
> Next-gen experience for advanced tech like AR and VR
> Device availability: handsets, routers and other smart devices from Samsung, Apple, Motorola and Asus, among others, already certified for 6E
Until now, you’d need to be on a wired Cat6 cable network to get 1Gbit/s-plus internet and LAN speeds in your home or business, but with 6E devices these speeds will soon be available wirelessly. Moreover, since very few currently use the 6GHz band, there’s going to be much less channel interference, unlike the already-congested 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz bands.
The next step is to enable the use of 6E bandwidth over standard power (outdoor) transmission devices, so that Wisps can increase the speed and bandwidth of their broadcast services.
Enabling 6E outdoors will require the creation of automatic frequency coordination (AFC) databases, which are used to automatically prevent interference between long-range broadcast equipment for new and existing users, which in the 6E band are primarily satellite services at this time.
The US, Canada and Brazil have started commercial AFC trials in the 6E band. Now that South Africa has caught up with the rest of the world in opening up lower-band 6E spectrum, hopefully the country can also move rapidly to allow for outdoor 6E use and, beyond that, look at opening up upper-band 6E spectrum as well.
- The author, Paul Colmer, is executive committee member at the Wireless Access Providers’ Association, a non-profit trade association acting as a collective voice for the wireless industry