To accelerate 5G in Africa, regulatory frameworks governing critical wireless backhaul spectrum e-band (70-80 GHz) needed to be on the agenda, Information Communications Technology experts have said.
The experts made the call at the ‘6th Annual Sub Sahara Spectrum Management Conference’ held virtually from July 20 to 22, 2021.
According to a statement to Financial Street on Monday, the conference provided a platform for governments, regulators and industry to deliberate on issues pertaining to the management and coordination of spectrum policy across Africa and clear the path towards 5G to build Africa’s digital future.
“For data to move from one point to another on the Internet, there needs to be a medium that allows these points to interface with one another,” it stated.
Wireless backhaul is the use of wireless communication, such as microwave, to transport data between the wireless site and core. It’s a key component to connect a device to the Internet. A combination of high capacity and low latency makes e-band ideal for high capacity backhaul, it explained.
“The e-band and 5G RAN spectrum planning prior to 5G are essential for the development of ICT in Africa, especially as network densification and planning for (dense) urban network development advances,” said the Director of Wireless and Core Network for Huawei Southern Africa Region, Shu Peijian.
According to GSMA’s Wireless Backhaul Evolution Delivering next-generation connectivity report published in February 2021, 5G is set to have a significant impact on backhaul networks in the coming years.
Microwave backhaul will account for the majority of global backhaul links from 2021 to 2027, with around 65 per cent market share, it showed, stressing that continued use of wireless backhaul will require an evolution towards higher frequency bands, such as the e-band, which can support wider channels and have a greater total amount of spectrum available.
Having demonstrated clear technical advantages in 5G backhaul construction globally, e-band spectrum has been allocated in 86 countries, including eight in Africa, it added.
The statement noted that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, for example, started e-Band regulatory planning in 2015 with amendments for use of these bands coming into force in 2016.
Nigeria is the first country in Africa to open up 70/80GHz spectrum to support terrestrial service providers for short backhauling.
The Head, Spectrum Planning, Nigerian Communications Commission, Joseph Emeshili, was quoted as saying, “E-band enables Nigeria’s backhaul network to evolve to the 4G and 5G era. The release of e-band is a highly significant step to accelerate Nigeria’s ICT development and enable more people to enjoy digital service.”
The statement also noted that industry insights showed more than 85 per cent of base stations in Africa using microwave for backhaul, while eight carriers got 5G services.
Alongside the rollout of 5G in Africa, microwave backhaul is playing an increasingly important role as an essential component to 5G network infrastructure in the continent, the statement added
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