Sunday 16 May 2021

Saudi Arabia's New Spectrum Outlook to Unlock more than 23 GHz of radio spectrum

The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has issued its ‘3-year Outlook for Commercial and Innovative Use of the Spectrum in Saudi Arabia.’ The spectrum outlook is part of the National Spectrum Strategy, which aims to unlock the potential of radio spectrum in Saudi Arabia for a smarter and safer future by 2025. CITC is planning to allocate or improve access to more than 23 GHz of spectrum for a wide range of uses, of which 4 GHz will be licensed, 6.2 GHz will be license-exempt, and more than 13 GHz will be lightly licensed. CITC is also actively monitoring other potential frequency bands for further future releases.

The press release said:

CITC is planning to allocate licensed spectrum in the bands 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 1,500 MHz, extended 2,100 MHz, 3,800 – 4,000 MHz and 26 GHz frequency bands for mobile use between 2021 and 2023. As part of the regulatory changes, additional spectrum will be managed through a combination of innovative approaches that will deliver greater sharing and flexible access, including spectrum trading to allow the market to change the ownership and, in some cases, the use of spectrum. In addition, with this new spectrum outlook, CITC aims to achieve a balance between complementary technologies in cases where the market cannot deliver, monitor spectrum utilization for improved decision making, and assist innovation by making a variety of bands available for new technologies from trial licenses to shared and short-term access. The spectrum outlook details Saudi Arabia's path to becoming a global leader in radiocommunication and wireless technologies by attracting investments, meeting current data and connectivity demands and proactively anticipating future needs. Correspondingly, CITC aims to leverage innovation in spectrum management by expanding its range of resources and services, while ensuring the digital ecosystem is ready to unlock its full potential. Drafting this outlook followed a transparent and collaborative process that involved public consultation and engagement with more than 65 wireless technology organizations from different 20 countries.

Saudi Arabia became the first country in the Middle East, Europe, or Africa to designate all 1200 MHz of the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use. The Kingdom now has more than 2 GHz of spectrum for Wi-Fi operations – the most mid-band spectrum designated by any country globally. This decision was lauded by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA).

The Kingdom made this decision after a comprehensive consultation, significant engagement with various global stakeholders, and trials with Wi-Fi 6E equipment furnished by WBA members Broadcom Inc. and Intel Corporation. The trials demonstrated that the Kingdom could advance its digital ambitions, achieving 2 Gigabits per second speed in laptop computers, while enabling continued operations with existing users of the 6 GHz band.

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the Kingdom’s decision for digitizing its economy and enabling next-generation services. In WBA’s annual report, members of the Wi-Fi industry said that the 6 GHz band is a critical component of their network strategy, with 78% seeking to take advantage of this spectrum to deliver high speed wireless broadband. By making all 1200 MHz of the band available, the Saudi’s have created a wireless superhighway with seven non-overlapping 160 MHz channels of green field spectrum for Wi-Fi 6E devices to use. Saudis will enjoy high reliability Wi-Fi that doubles the speeds and halves the latency compared to the capacity-constrained 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.

The Kingdom will also be well positioned to lead in Wi-Fi 7 deployments when it becomes available. With this broad-based designation, Wi-Fi 7 deployments using 320 MHz wide channels will get up to 5 gigabits per second in mobile devices at very low latencies. This sets the stage for the Kingdom to further reap the benefits of contextual Internet, integrated communications services, and immersive AR/VR for telemedicine, education and worker training.

With Saudi Arabia joining the ranks of the US, South Korea, Brazil, and others, in designating all 1200 MHz of the 6 GHz band for license-exempt use, the WBA hopes that other regulators in the region will take note and make a similar commitment to advancing their own wireless broadband capabilities. This will lead to Global harmonization, which is key to scale, accelerating technology development, and reducing costs for end-users.

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