A New Era for Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi 6E World Map

We have been busy for a few years raising awareness among regulators and policymakers about the importance of Wi-Fi for a country’s connectivity agenda and the need for more spectrum for this crucial technology, which citizens and businesses have come to rely on even more during the pandemic. Whenever we speak with stakeholders across the region about Wi-Fi 6E (Wi-Fi in the 6 GHz band), they ask about device availability, use cases (both now and in future) and how much mid-band spectrum Wi-Fi needs.

As our updated progress map shows, it won’t be long before Wi-Fi 6E will be available to more than one billion people. That is good news for both individuals and the battered global economy.

In some countries in EMEA (our region of focus), the impact of better connectivity could be profound. The total value of Wi-Fi to Egypt, for example, is set to almost double to US$17 billion in 2025, according to new analysis from Telecom Advisory Services published by the Wi-Fi Alliance. In Nigeria, the economic value of Wi-Fi will grow from US$16 billion in 2021 to US$33 billion in 2025, while the EU will see Wi-Fi contribute US$637 billion in 2025, as Wi-Fi 6E starts to be deployed across Europe.

These figures and others are featured in an updated white paper that PIP has published jointly with the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA). This paper highlights new regulatory developments across EMEA, such as the landmark recommendation by the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) to enable licence-exempt technologies (such as Wi-Fi) to operate in the lower 6 GHz (5925-6425 MHz) band. In Europe, EU member states are now implementing a EC Decision that will see Wi-Fi 6E deployed in the lower 6 GHz band in a consistent way across the continent by the end of 2021.  Some European administrations are now advocating studies exploring whether licence-exempt technologies can be used across the entire 6 GHz band. More to follow on this.

Although there have been some calls for the upper 6 GHz band (6425-7125 MHz) to be reserved for IMT, the satellite industry and some administrations have expressed concerns that IMT networks in the upper 6 GHz band would interfere with incumbent services, due to the high-power requirement for IMT coverage. Studies conducted in the lower 6 GHz band suggest those concerns are well founded.

In any case, some major markets have already moved on. The U.S., Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Canada and South Korea are among the countries that have decided to make the entire 6 GHz band available on a license-exempt basis (read: use for Wi-Fi) to meet the burgeoning demand for affordable and reliable connectivity. Tellingly, Saudi Arabia’s regulator CITC has said that the 3 GHz band “will be sufficient to cover the mid-band spectrum needs of IMT for the foreseeable future.”

For more analysis and insights on the future of Wi-Fi and the 6 GHz band, I recommend to all our friends and stakeholders to read our updated white paper, which is available in English, French and Arabic

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