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6 GHz unlicensed access and Wi-Fi 6E to add billions to African economies, reveals Dynamic Spectrum Alliance

It is predicted that unlicensed access to the 6 GHz band will add an accumulated $150.19bn to the economies of Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa

THE economies of Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa could benefit if they decide to enable unlicensed access to the 5925-7125 MHz band, according to studies published by the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) and the Telecom Advisory Services LLC (TAS). The four new studies were conducted by Raul Katz and Fernando Callorda, leading scholars of economics and telecommunications policy. They show that over the next ten years, if regulations for licence-exempt access are adopted, billions of dollars could be added to the economies of each country.

The four new studies assessed the economic value of unlicensed use of the band in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa by assessing the impact on service quality, coverage, affordability and the impact on different applications and use cases. The methodology relied upon in this study identified the different sources of economic value, estimated them independently and then aggregated within a single value. These findings revealed a significant early economic impact following the designation of 1,200 MHz in the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use for applications such as Wi-Fi 6E, the new generation of Wi-Fi that operates in the 6 GHz band.

Some of the sources of value include enhanced broadband coverage and improved affordability, increased speed by reducing Wi-Fi congestion, enhanced deployment of municipal Wi-Fi and deployment of Free Wi-Fi Hotspots, which provide for Internet access for households that cannot purchase a broadband plan. All this while ensuring that existing incumbent services, such as satellites and fixed links can continue to thrive in the band.

In the case of Kenya, the cumulative economic value between 2021 and 2030 associated with enabling license-exempt access to the 1200 MHz in the 6 GHz band amounts up to $14.28bn in GDP contribution, $1.12bn in producer surplus to Kenyan enterprises, and $4.89bn in consumer surplus to the Kenyan population. The total contribution amounts up to $20.29bn to the Kenyan economy over the next 10 years.

For Nigeria, the cumulative economic value between 2021 and 2030 associated with enabling license-exempt access to the 1200 MHz in the 6 GHz band amounts up to $49.89bn in GDP contribution, $10.51bn in producer surplus to Nigerian enterprises, and $11.74bn in consumer surplus to the Nigerian population. The total contribution amounts up to $72.14bn to the Nigerian economy over the next 10 years.

For South Africa, the cumulative economic value between 2021 and 2030 associated with enabling license-exempt access to the 1200 MHz in the 6 GHz band amounts up to $34.81bn in GDP contribution, $13.32bn in producer surplus to South African enterprises, and $9.63bn in consumer surplus to the South African population. The total contribution amounts up to $57.76bn to the South African economy over the next 10 years.

‘License-exempt use of the entire 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi will be critical to address current pressing bandwidth demands for end users, new applications and industries,’ said Martha Suarez, President of the DSA. ‘It will also play a crucial role in bridging the digital divide in these countries, enabling improved access to remote education, work and commerce. Wi-Fi needs greater spectrum access in the 6 GHz band to effectively support the modern digital ecosystem.’

The DSA encourages the spectrum authorities in the three countries to consider the impact of this economic benefit by allowing unlicensed operations in the 6 GHz frequency band, making a more efficient use of the spectrum compared to the current use, protecting incumbents and increasing broadband connectivity in these four countries.

These studies were carried out in collaboration with the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s Digital Access Programme (DAP). The full findings of the Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa reports are available online, via the DSA website: http://dynamicspectrumalliance.org/resources/.

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