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Boost for SA’s in-vehicle, in-building WiFi connectivity

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 28 Jun 2023

The Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA) has welcomed the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (ICASA’s) move to make more spectrum available for WiFi in the lower 6GHz band.

According to the industry body, making available an additional 500Mhz of bandwidth has essentially tripled the spectrum available for in-vehicle and in-building WiFi connectivity, provided users upgrade their routers to the latest WiFi 6E standard.

“This is fantastic news for consumers,” says ISPA in a statement.

Towards the end of May, ICASA published an Amendment to Annexure B of the Radio Frequency Spectrum Regulations (2015) in respect of the Radio Frequency Spectrum Licence Exemptions.

According to ICASA, the lower 6GHz frequency band refers to the radio frequency range of 5 925MHz – 6 425MHz, as allocated in the National Radio Frequency Plan.

Annexure B of Radio Frequency Spectrum Regulations, 2015, consists of a list of radio apparatus, the use or possession of which does not require a radio frequency spectrum licence.

This spectrum will provide a much-needed boost for WiFi availability and uptake, and is expected to enable faster data communications between devices connected to wireless infrastructure, reduce latency, improve efficiency and data throughput.

ISPA, in a statement, says ICASA should be commended for this timely move, as the lower 6GHz spectrum band has now been opened up for the provision of WiFi, which is the connectivity option of choice for South African consumers and government connectivity initiatives like SA Connect and the National Broadband Project.

“For home, SOHO [small office/home office) and SME users, in particular, the recent amendments to the radio regulations dramatically increase the spectrum available for use by WiFi applications,” says Dominic Cull, ISPA regulatory advisor.

Spectrum decreases contention, thereby providing for a more stable environment for denser wireless networks, he adds.

“This latest ICASA move caters for many more connected devices on the home WiFi network, particularly in high-density and multi-level buildings.”

As high-speed fibre-optic cable is rolled out across South Africa, home WiFi has traditionally been a bottleneck, with lightning-fast connectivity crashing headlong into the limitations of wireless home and SOHO set-ups, ISPA explains.

It notes that too many competing devices, exceeding the range of the technology or obstacles obstructing the radio signal can all result in high-speed internet access actually being experienced as mediocre transfer and browsing speeds.

ISPA points out the amendment to Annexure B of the Radio Frequency Spectrum Regulations (2015), coupled with the advent of the next-generation upgrade that is WiFi 6/6E and 7, should see faster speeds experienced by supported devices in the home and SOHO environments.

In addition, WiFi 6E is a new standard that can offer innovations and allow importers to bring in cutting-edge WiFi products to South Africa.

“The world today is hyper-competitive and no country can afford to rest on its technology laurels. ISPA, therefore, looks forward to ICASA opening up the rest of the 6GHz band in a similar manner as its recent, very positive move,” concludes Cull.