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Longer Range WiFi “HaLow” Networks Coming via the 900MHz Band

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016 (7:55 am) - Score 2,600

The Wi-Fi Alliance has officially launched its new WiFiHaLow” technology, which is based off the long-in-development IEEE 802.11ah standard and uses the 900MHz radio spectrum band in order to deliver a longer range and lower power network solution.

The obvious advantage of using a low frequency like 900MHz is that it can propagate more easily through walls and reach devices / computers that reside further away (i.e. at least double the range of 2.4GHz), all while requiring significantly less power than the usual 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands. In an outdoor environment it could even be boosted to cover a range of up to 1km.

Naturally this makes it useful for the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), which may exist in a Smart Home or connected car environment where many different components need to communicate (M2M). Mind you there are already a number of other wireless technologies that can cater for this, albeit with some limitations.

Edgar Figueroa, Wi-Fi Alliance President, said:

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.

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.”

However Ofcom has already allocated 900MHz (880.1-914.9MHz / 925.1-959.9 MHz) for use by Mobile Network Operators (MNO), such as O2 and Vodafone, which leaves very little spectrum for the HaLow technology that would thus have to avoid causing interference for other services in the same band.

The above situation also limits how much spectrum is available for HaLow to use and that in turn means that the data speeds will be quite slow, starting at around 150Kbps (0.15Mbps if you prefer that in Megabits per second) and rising to perhaps 10-20Mbps.

The decision to use 900MHz also means that 802.11ah is not backwards compatible with existing kit and thus all of the needed hardware would have to be replaced in order to gain any benefit. Not to worry though because the alliance won’t begin to certify final HaLow hardware until 2018, although you might well see it incorporated into some products as part of a draft release before that date.

Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar Bob says:

    As pointless as white space then.

  2. Avatar MikeW says:

    It is probably best to think of this as a standard targeting the existing sub-1GHz ISM bands, rather than specifically aimed at 900MHz. No Ofcom involvement is needed, then.

    The US has an ISM band defined for 902-928MHz (which is why the standard is usually labelled “900MHz”), whereas Europe has its ISM band at 863-868MHz. We’d have access to a whopping 5MHz.

    802.11ah itself aims to make channels of 1MHz or 2MHz (top limit in Europe), rather than the 20MHz and 40MHz commonly seen in 802.11n (and up to 160MHz in 802.11ac). Expect low speeds – especially if hardware doesn’t make much use of MIMO/spatial streams

    It is definitely for low-bandwidth use. But has a fair amount of competition in the IoT space.

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