To hasten the deployment of 5G in Africa, regulatory frameworks governing critical wireless backhaul spectrum, the E-band (70-80 GHz), must be put on the table as soon as possible. This was the call made by ICT experts during the 6th Annual Sub-Saharan Spectrum Management Conference.
The conference presented the opportunity for governments, regulators, and industry to explore spectrum policy management and coordination challenges across Africa. Thus, paving the way for Africa’s digital future.
Microwave backhaul is a critical instrument for extending the benefits of 5G networks to all corners of the world.” E-band spectrum has been allocated in 86 countries worldwide, including eight in Africa, after demonstrating clear technological advantages in 5G backhaul development.
The use of wireless communication, such as microwaves, to carry data between the wireless site and the core is known as a wireless backhaul. It’s an essential part of connecting a device to the internet.
E-band (70-80 GHz) is suited for significant capacity backhaul because of its high capacity and low latency. “Africa currently has a 25 per cent coverage gap, and achieving universal terrestrial access will need the installation of 250 000 new 4G base stations,” said Stephen Spengler, CEO of Intelsat and Chairman of the ESOA Board.
For example, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) began E-Band regulatory planning in 2015, with adjustments to the bands’ use taking effect in 2016. Nigeria is also one of the first African countries to release 70/80GHz spectrum for terrestrial service providers to use for short backhauling.
According to industry sources, more than 85 per cent of base stations in Africa employ microwaves for backhaul, with eight operators offering 5G services. Along with the deployment of 5G in Africa, microwave backhaul is becoming an increasingly crucial component of the continent’s 5G network infrastructure.
“E-band and 5G RAN spectrum planning prior to 5G is critical for the development of ICT in Africa, particularly as network densification and planning for (dense) urban network expansion advances,” said Shu Peijizxcvan, Huawei Southern Africa Region Director of Wireless and Core Network.