Proposed changes for Wi-Fi, 4G, and 5G frequencies in South Africa

Towards the end of 2022, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) issued several notices about proposed changes to radio frequency assignments.

These included a draft amendment to the Radio Frequency Spectrum Regulations, eight proposed changes and seven final amendments to the Radio Frequency Spectrum Assignment Plan.

On 15 December 2022, Icasa issued a proposal to expand the amount of wireless capacity available for Wi-Fi in South Africa.

“The Authority is proposing the incorporation of the key lower 6 GHz band (5925 – 6425 MHz) and the 122 – 246 GHz band for Non-Specific Short-range Applications in Annexure B of the regulations,” it stated.

No radio frequency licence would be needed to use these frequencies.

“This will provide a much-needed boost for Wi-Fi availability and uptake, and is expected to enable faster data communications between devices connected to wireless infrastructure, reduce latency, improve efficiency and data throughput.”

Icasa said the lower 6 GHz band is emerging worldwide as a key component in broadband rollout and uptake, providing an essential local loop component to support fibre or fixed wireless access (FWA) backhaul and Wi-Fi deployment.

“Local loop” generally refers to the last few hundred metres of connectivity linking a home to a network operator’s larger Internet infrastructure.

FWA uses wireless technologies like 4G, 5G, or longer-range Wi-Fi to provide connectivity to a fixed location, like a home or business, rather than a mobile device.

Icasa gave stakeholders until 30 January 2023 to make submissions on this proposal.

On 19 and 20 December, Icasa promulgated the spectrum assignment plans for seven different IMT (4G, 5G, and beyond) frequency bands:

  • 703–733 MHz and 758–788 MHz (IMT700)
  • 733–758 MHz (IMT750)
  • 791–821 MHz and 832–862 MHz (IMT800)
  • 880–915 MHz and 925–960 MHz (IMT900)
  • 2300–2400 MHz (IMT2300)
  • 3300–3400 MHz (IMT3300)
  • 3400–3600 MHz (IMT3500)

Icasa said it would soon begin further consultations on three additional bands, namely:

  • 450–470 MHz (IMT450)
  • 825–830 MHz and 870–875 MHz (IMT850)
  • 1427–1518 MHz (IMT1400)

Icasa has already started consultations on eight other frequency bands, although these aren’t primarily aimed at IMT and Wi-Fi.

The frequency bands, ranging from 138 MHz to 1525 MHz, have been earmarked for various other applications.

These applications include alarms, public protection and disaster relief (e.g. police TETRA networks), Earth-to-space, space-to-Earth, and space-to-space communication links, radio astronomy, and other space research.

Some of these bands have also been identified for fixed wireless access and satellite-based IMT.

The public comment periods for these proposed changes end on different days, from 13 to 17 January 2023.

The following table summarises the various changes to South Africa’s radio frequency assignment plan Icasa has either recently finalised, or has in the works.

(Pictured above: Dr Charley Lewis, Icasa acting chair.)

Icasa radio frequency assignment plans
Frequency range Purpose
International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) — 4G & 5G
703–733 MHz and 758–788 MHz IMT700 — 4G & 5G
733–758 MHz IMT750 — 4G & 5G
791–821 MHz and 832–862 MHz IMT800 — 4G & 5G
880–915 MHz and 925–960 MHz IMT900 — 4G & 5G
2300–2400 MHz IMT2300 — 4G & 5G
3300–3400 MHz IMT3300 — 4G & 5G
3400–3600 MHz IMT3500 — 4G & 5G
IMT (forthcoming) — 4G & 5G
450–470 MHz IMT450 — 4G & 5G
825–830 MHz and 870–875 MHz IMT850 — 4G & 5G
1427–1518 MHz IMT1400 — 4G & 5G
335.4 MHz to 380 MHz
335.4–336 MHz Public Mobile Radio / Public Access Mobile Radio
336–346 MHz and 356.0–366.0 MHz Paired. Fixed Wireless Access. Point-to-point, or point-to-multipoint
346.0–356.0 MHz Public Mobile Radio / Private Access Mobile Radio
366.0–386.0 MHz UAVs, government services, Public Mobile Radio / Private Access Mobile Radio
380 MHz to 399.9 MHz
380–399.9 MHz Digital Public Protection and Disaster Relief
406.1 MHz to 410 MHz
406–406.1 Earth-to-space mobile satellite
406.1–410 MHz Radio astronomy
406.1–410 MHz Fixed links (paired with 416.1–420 MHz)
406.1–410 MHz Digital mobile radio (paired with 416.1–420 MHz)
410 MHz to 430 MHz
410–430 MHz Fixed government services
410–420 MHz Space research (crewed, space-to-space)
416.1–420 MHz Fixed links (paired with 406.1–410 MHz)
416.1–420 MHz Digital mobile radio (paired with 406.1–410 MHz)
410–415 MHz Band 87 (Paired) — Mobile transceiver
420–425 MHz Band 87 (Paired) — Base transceiver
412–417 MHz Band 88 (Paired) — Mobile transceiver
422–427 MHz Band 88 (Paired) — Base transceiver
413.7625–416.1 MHz Digital trunking (Paired) — Mobile transceiver
423.7625–426.1 MHz Digital trunking (Paired) — Base transceiver
410–414.975 MHz TETRA (Paired) — Mobile transceiver
420–424.975 MHz TETRA (Paired) — Base transceiver
1518 MHz to 1525 MHz
1518–1525MHz IMT Satellite / space-to-Earth mobile satellite, and non-aeronautical fixed mobile.
147 channels — 7x 500kHz and 140x 25kHz
440 MHz to 450 MHz
440–450 MHz Earth-to-space operations and research
440–441 MHz and 445–446 MHz Paired. Agricultural telemetry, roving simplex applications, simplex applications
441–441.1 MHz Single frequency mobile
446–446.1 Public Protection and Disaster Recovery, Public Mobile Radio, Private Access Mobile radio
138 MHz to 144 MHz
138–140.5 MHz Mobile 1 (Paired): Mobile transceiver
141.5–144 MHz Mobile 1 (Paired): Base transceiver
140.5–141.5 MHz Alarms (single frequency)
156.8375 MHz to 174 MHz
156.8375–160.45 MHz Dual Frequency Block 1 (Paired): Base transceiver
161.475–165.05 MHz Dual Frequency Block 1 (Paired): Mobile transceiver
160.45–161.475 MHz Single frequency Block 1
165.05–165.55 MHz Dual Frequency Block 2 (Paired): Mobile transceiver
170.05–170.55 MHz Dual Frequency Block 2 (Paired): Base transceiver
165.55–167.5 MHz Dual Frequency Block 3 (Paired): Base transceiver
172.05–174 MHz Dual Frequency Block 3 (Paired): Mobile transceiver
167.5–168.95 MHz Dual Frequency Block 4 (Paired): Mobile transceiver
170.55–172 MHz Dual Frequency Block 4 (Paired): Base transceiver
168.95–170.05 MHz Single frequency Block 2
172–172.05 MHz Single frequency Block 3

Now read: Load-shedding upgrades and 5G — What South Africa’s mobile networks plan in 2023

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Proposed changes for Wi-Fi, 4G, and 5G frequencies in South Africa