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WiFi 6E ready to supercharge Internet speeds

Oct 03, 2023

May 25, 2023

The Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (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 5,925GHz-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.

Paul Colmer, exco member at Wireless Access Provider's Association (WAPA), says that the release of this new spectrum is the first step in the much-anticipated release of additional spectrum for both indoor and outdoor use.

"While the current regulations only permit the use of lower-band 6E spectrum for indoor use, that's still going to open up a massive window of opportunity for Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) to maximise the potential of their broadband internet services," says Colmer.

"Using any number of already-certified 6E devices, like 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," he adds.

"Until now, you’d need to be on a wired Cat6 cable network to get 1-gigabit-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 existing and already-congested 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz bands."

Colmer says 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," he says.

"To date the US, Canada and Brazil has started commercial AFC trials in the 6E band. Hopefully now that South Africa has caught up with the rest of the world in opening up lower-band 6E spectrum, we can also move rapidly to allow for outdoor 6E use and, beyond that, look at opening up upper-band 6E spectrum as well."

According to Colmer, the advantages of 6E spectrum include:

* Reduced WiFi congestion;

* Wider channels, with 80MHz and 160MHz bandwidth;

* Wireless speeds of over 1Gbps;

* Extremely low (less than 1ms) latency;

* No overlapping channels;

* Next-gen experience for advanced tech like AR and VR; and

* Device availability: handsets, routers and other smart devices from Samsung, Apple, Motorola and Asus, among others, are already certified for 6E.