Wi-Fi Alliance launches IoT-centric 900MHz HaLow standard
January 5, 2016 // 11:57 a.m.
The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced a new standard aimed at the Internet of Things, in particular smart home systems, dubbed Wi-Fi HaLow and using the low-power, long-range 900MHz band.
Traditional Wi-Fi systems, including the popular 802.11a/b/g/n/ac standards, make use of the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. While these are relatively free from clutter, apart from other Wi-Fi users and the occasional badly-shielded microwave, the high frequencies mean correspondingly high power draw and a poor ability to penetrate walls, foliage, and other obstacles. For indoor Wi-Fi networks, not too much of a problem; for reading your smart weather sensor at the bottom of the garden, it's more of an issue - as is the battery-draining transmission power.
Wi-Fi HaLow, more properly known as 802.11ah, is the Wi-Fi Alliance's answer to the problem. Shifting down to the 900MHz band, HaLow is claimed to offer double the range of 2.4GHz Wi-Fi with improved penetration of solid objects. The standard also includes changes designed to improve robustness, avoiding issues stemming from a more crowded radio network environment.
'Wi-Fi HaLow is well suited to meet the unique needs of the Smart Home, Smart City, and industrial markets because of its ability to operate using very low power, penetrate through walls, and operate at significantly longer ranges than Wi-Fi today,' claimed Edgar Figueroa, president and chief executive, Wi-Fi Alliance. 'Wi-Fi HaLow expands the unmatched versatility of Wi-Fi to enable applications from small, battery-operated wearable devices to large-scale industrial facility deployments – and everything in between.'
The industry group has suggested that the first HaLow devices will likely support existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi connectivity in order to bootstrap the standard, though no member companies have yet come forward to announce impending HaLow-based product launches.