New data shows that South Africa could benefit by $57.76-billion over the next 10 years by enabling 1 200 license-exempt megahertz in the 6 GHz band.
This comprises $34.81-billion in gross domestic product contribution, $13.32-billion in producer surplus to South African businesses and $9.63-billion in consumer surplus.
The findings, compiled over several months by Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA) in collaboration with Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA), reveal that this could help the country bridge the digital divide, as well as improve access to remote education, work and commerce.
Three further studies were simultaneously conducted by DSA – which is working with the Digital Access Programme in the UK to share its spectrum expertise – and its partners for Nigeria, Kenya and Indonesia, all with similar findings.
The study assessed the service quality, coverage and affordability impact of different applications for the unlicensed use of the 6 GHz band.
“It will also play a crucial role in bridging the digital divide in these countries, enabling improved access to remote education, work and commerce. WiFi needs greater spectrum access in the 6 GHz band to effectively support the modern digital ecosystem,” said DSA president Martha Suarez.
“Opening up 1.2 GHz of unlicensed spectrum would be phenomenal compared with the spectrum we have available in South Africa right now, even after the recent high demand IMT spectrum auction of 306 MHz,” added WAPA executive Paul Colmer, noting that Wisps have been using the same unlicenced sub-6 GHz point-to-multipoint spectrum since the IECNS licences were granted in 2009.
In addition, newer equipment and methods of using it are more spectrally efficient than ever before, which would extend the usefulness of the bandwidth even further.
The WiFi 6E band is broken into two main portions, namely the lower band which encompasses 5 925 MHz to 6 425 MHz and the upper band which encompasses 6 425 MHz up to 7 125 MHz.
The DSA has urged governments to provide unlicensed access to the lower band and the 700 MHz of the upper band.
“WiFi 6E is WiFi6 extended. It provides numerous 160 MHz channels and provides the fastest WiFi yet because it delivers multigigabit, low latency connections essential to supporting fifth-generation services.”
Colmer said this will have more positive effect than just making new spectrum available.
“The current WiFi 5 spectrum is heavily congested because many devices are vying for the same band of frequency. The end result is that it causes interference and that limits effective ranges.
New spectrum offloads some of that traffic so not only is it not interfering by using a different frequency band, there is less congestion on the old band. That makes it more reliable, faster and more effective.”