Saudi Arabia's CITC boosts access to "more than 23 GHz of spectrum"

31 March 2021 | Melanie Mingas

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Saudi Arabia has become the first country in the Middle East, Africa and Europe to designate all 1200 MHz of the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use.

The development is part of the kingdom's three-year spectrum outlook, released yesterday by the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC). It detailed how the authority is planning to "allocate or improve" access to more than 23 GHz of spectrum "for a wide range of uses".

Of this 4 GHz will be licensed, more than 13 GHz will be lightly licensed, and 6.2 GHz will be license-exempt.

CITC Governor Mohammed Al-Tamimi, said: “Allocating new spectrum for emerging wireless technologies will enable many use cases across different industries and verticals to help Saudi-Arabia to build a digital society. CITC is adopting a progressive spectrum policy to meet spectrum demand of this wireless proliferation and enable technologies of the future like 5G, broadband satellite and new generation of WiFi to have fair access to spectrum.”

CITC said the move underpins its long-term vision and would lay the groundwork for early adoption of Wifi 7 in the kingdom. The standardisation process of the next generation of the IEEE 802.11 family standard, 802.11be, is ongoing with progress to be made in early 2021.

On the 6 GHz band, the entire band (5.925-7.125 GHz) will be released for license-exempt use, making Saudi Arabia the first country in ITU region 1 to enable license-exempt access to the entire 6 GHz. The decision has been praised by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) and Dynamic Spectrum Alliance.

Dynamic Spectrum Alliance said the decision will "foster innovation and provide last-generation connectivity and digital empowerment in the Kingdom".

Alliance president Martha Suarez, commented: "I want to express the DSA’s unanimous and enthusiastic support for CITC’s decision to allocate new spectrum for emerging wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi 6E. We also celebrate the combination of innovative regulatory approaches that will deliver greater spectrum sharing and flexible access,” says Martha Suarez, DSA President.

WBA said the designation was "groundbreaking".

“The CITC’s decision is a clear global milestone,” said Tiago Rodrigues, WBA CEO.

“Saudi Arabia has set out a leading position for Europe, the Middle East and Africa and raised the bar for the rest of the world. The WBA strongly recommends that regulators in other countries pay close attention to Saudi Arabia’s example of allocating the entire 6GHz band for license-exempt use. The release of the full 1200 MHz provides enhanced flexibility for both indoor and outdoor deployments and lays the foundation for the Kingdom’s citizens and businesses to set a path for the adoption of Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 when that technology debuts.  It has been a pleasure to collaborate with CITC, and I look forward to further collaboration by enabling OpenRoaming trials, which will enable secure and seamless roaming.”

WBA members Broadcom Inc, Intel Corporation and Cisco also praised the move.