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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), explained 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,” said 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,” Colmer continued.

Colmer explained 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,” Colmer stated.

“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.”