WiFi 6E spectrum to turbo-charge SA’s internet speed
Although the use of lower-band 6E spectrum bandwidth is currently limited for low-power transmission only, this spectrum is expected to enable internet users with WiFi 6E equipment to enjoy a “supercharged” internet experience.
This is the word from Paul Colmer, exco member of the Wireless Access Providers Association of South Africa (WAPA).
He says the release of this new spectrum is the first step in the much-anticipated release of additional spectrum for indoor and outdoor WiFi use in SA.
This week, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) opened up more spectrum for WiFi services, in the lower 6GHz spectrum band – the radio frequency range of 5 925MHz to 6 425MHz.
According to Colmer, this spectrum will enable faster data communications between devices connected to wireless infrastructure and reduced WiFi congestion. Other advantages include enabling wireless internet speeds of over 1Gbps, next-gen experience for advanced tech like augmented reality and virtual reality, and reduced latency.
“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,” states 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.”
According to Colmer, until now, users would need to be on a wired Cat6 cable network to get 1-gigabit-plus internet and LAN speeds in their 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,” he explains.
Tobie van Schalkwyk, business development manager at Duxbury Networking, notes WiFi 6E will benefit heavy WiFi consumers and will be specifically advantageous to the future generation –Gen Z.
“Teenagers are hyper-connected – to put it mildly. They spend an enormous amount of time connected to the internet. They do their homework (approximately two-three hours a week), work on projects (approximately two-three hours a week), listen to music (approximately two-three hours a week) – all on the internet,” he points out.
Additionally, they are increasingly using virtual platforms for dance or fitness classes and extra school classes, and consume quite a few hours of entertainment a week online, says Van Schalkwyk.
According to Colmer, 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 points out.
“To date, the US, Canada and Brazil have 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.”