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Long Range HaLow WiFi Network Test Pushes Signal to 3km

Friday, Feb 2nd, 2024 (10:11 am) - Score 2,560
Morse-Micro-HaLow-WiFi-Test-on-Beach

Sydney-based fabless semiconductor startup Morse Micro has successfully demonstrated how outdoor Wi-Fi signals, using their HaLow (802.11ah) chips, can be made to work at distances that are many times the reach of a conventional Wi-Fi technology. The trial saw them push a working wireless network up to 3km from its source.

The chances are good that most of those reading this article won’t have heard about the longer range 802.11ah WiFi standard before, which is because it was approved all the way back in 2016 (here) and then never really took off.

Part of the reason for that may be because few companies have developed it and the standard relies on the 900MHz radio spectrum band, which in the UK and other countries has already been largely allocated to mobile networks and other uses. In addition, the technology was always more targetted toward providing connectivity for smaller Internet of Things (IoT) devices, rather than homes, but there are other standards that can do that.

Nevertheless, Morse Micro still believes in the potential of HaLow to deliver a low power and long-range means of connecting IoT devices, which they’ve now proven via a trial of their new chip. The demo, which involved a live two-way video call over a Wi-Fi HaLow link in San Francisco’s Ocean Beach neighbourhood, was powered by the company’s MM6108 system-on-chip — offering the radio, PHY, and MAC in a single unit and with the option of including a 32-bit application processor built around the free and open source RISC-V instruction set architecture.

The trial was able to push a WiFi signal up to a record distance of 1.8 miles (3km) from a single access point, although at this range the speed did fall away to 1Mbps. But that was still enough to maintain a working and high-quality video call using modern codecs.

The performance at 250 metres was a lot better, reaching 17Mbps. The link then gradually fell away to 11Mbps at 500 metres and stayed at around that speed for 1000 metres, before dropping again to 8Mbps at 1,500 metres and 7.5Mbps at 2,000 metres. The company says their chip can deliver up to 32.5Mbps, but obviously you’d have to be pretty close to the AP for that (the standard is designed to work between speeds of 150Kbps – 86.7Mbps).

We’re achieving 3km distance here with Wi-Fi,” Morse Micro’s Will Abraham reported during the demonstration. “That is unheard of in a real-world, noisy environment. Thanks to Wi-Fi HaLow and our 8MHz bandwidth, we can support enough data rate to do a high-quality video call even at this amazing distance.”

Sadly, we don’t get a lot of detail about precisely which part of the 900MHz band they were using in this test. Similarly, they make no distinction between download and upload performance, which makes it difficult to know what kind of speed is actually being reported.

Question marks also remain over how widely this could be adopted, given the issues with regulation between countries and pre-existing spectrum assignments. The system is also promoted for operating in licence exempt bands, but outdoor WiFi networks in the UK usually have to play by stricter rules.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
8 Responses
  1. Avatar photo io says:

    Either I am not getting this right or this is completely useless. Having 2.4GHz sector antenna or few of them high enough somewhere on building roof you can cover the same area with better reliability for multiple devices. We don’t know with how many concurrent devices they’ve been testing this but I am guessing it was a single one.

    1. Avatar photo Munehaus says:

      It’s completely useless. It uses a band not available outside the US. A better comparison would be LoRA at 868 MHz, which outperforms 802.11ah. Hence why nobody uses this.

  2. Avatar photo maserati says:

    I seen TechFlow on YouTube show off the WiFi HaLow bridge kit just yesterday. He was able to get close to 18Mbps at about 700 meters away from his house. And looking at the product page it uses the 863-868MHz range in Europe.

  3. Avatar photo James Body says:

    There are so many issues with this as an access technology.

    I think that implementing a private 4G or 5G RAN solution is a far better solution – that can be easily accessed by large numbers of standard User Equipments.

    Any solution that uses a slightly non-standard solution at one end is of marginal use!

  4. Avatar photo NE555 says:

    The test is all outdoors, along a flat beach with clear line of sight, no obstructions – in other words, the best possible conditions. And at 3km it barely worked (a couple of frames per second).

    As soon as you put even one building in the way, the usable range will contract to next to nothing – which means having to put high antennas on everything that needs to communicate.

    This looks like a solution in search of a problem.

    1. Avatar photo Munehaus says:

      Absolutely. 3 KM is actually trivial for traditional Wifi at 2.4GHz with directional antennas. I think the record is now over 300 KM (188 miles)! This is just dodgy marketing for a dead product posted as a press release.

  5. Avatar photo Adam says:

    If this product came to market, then this would be a game changer. I remember being all hyped about WiMax back in like 2005, but sadly that never launched properly, it probably was was blocked by mobile operators who would lose too much money from mobile data charges.

    Current WiFi ranges are terrible, they keep adding more and more bandwidth, but given how prevailing products like wifi mesh are, increasing the range at the expense of a bit of speed would fix many broadband woes.

  6. Avatar photo John Knox says:

    The main selling point for HaLow is that it has a much greater range than 2.4 and especially 5Ghz Wi-Fi, all other things being equal, and it doesn’t have to be a line of sight. Obstacles don’t appear to be as much of an issue.

    LoRa does not outperform HaLow except perhaps in signal range and equipment cost, but there are trade-offs for that. LoRa cannot do TCP/IP, it has pathetically low throughput in Mbps, it is proprietary, it is not Mesh capable, and it has poor security.

    LoRa is very poor and slow and its only use case appears to be in the farming sector. HaLow on the other hand has multiple use cases.

    HaLow does everything very well. It has a high signal range, low power consumption, TCP/IP, high throughput in Mbps, it is not proprietary, it is Mesh capable, and its security is very high.

    The main issue for HaLow is the variation in frequencies amongst countries makes it difficult to produce Wi-Fi HaLow products that work universally. Some countries have already allocated parts of the spectrum that HaLow uses for other uses such as mobile phone networks and TV broadcasts. This is why it has been very slow to come to market because it has taken so long to agree on the different standards and frequencies.

    We now finally appear to be getting the different standards formalised for the different countries and regions in place for HaLow so that new products can come to market and that is only a good thing.

    For those that say you can just get a better antenna for 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz and so on well you can also do the same for HaLow to give that even greater range and HaLow already has far greater range anyway than standard Wi-Fi all things being equal. HaLow also does it using low power. Halow has less of an issue when there isn’t a direct line of sight. It still works through buildings, vehicles, trees and other obstructions with only a small drop in throughput.

    Most people are not going to spend all that money on extra expensive antennas though just to get better range on 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz that is not designed with range in mind in the first place whereas HaLow is designed for that out-of-the-box.

    3 KM is not trivial for traditional 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi. The fact that you need to spend a lot of money on additional antennas proves this. With 5 GHz Wi-Fi, you will be lucky to get the signal outside your home at all. It is not designed for range or passing through obstacles, only for speed.

    The speeds will not be as good as 2.4 and especially 5Ghz Wi-Fi when you are in your living room at home right next to the Wi-Fi router but that is not the point. The point is to get far greater range than anything traditional Wi-Fi could achieve and to get that using low power and still have a reasonable upload and download speed and low latency when you are outside and further away from your home it is also very useful for IOT use etc.

    The Internet companies have been pushing higher frequency Wi-Fi with blazing speeds because they want to sell us additional costly products and add-ons to get better ranges instead of just giving us what we want in the first place. Most people except perhaps for streamers and gamers don’t need the massive speeds being offered they just want better range and service. A lot of us are paying for speed we don’t need at the expense of range and convenience. Once we step outside our living room or home the Wi-Fi is dead and we have to use the mobile network instead. So we are paying a lot for something we don’t need, and then paying again to get it outside our home. HaLow will solve this problem, reduce our costs and increase our range.

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