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Low Power 900MHz Wi-Fi ‘HaLow’ Standard Targets IoT

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Wi-Fi Alliance hopes HaLow can offer the low power, long range connectivity offered by other communications technology

The Wi-Fi Alliance has released the final specifications for the ‘HaLow’ 802.11ah standard, which it is hoped will allow Wi-Fi to compete with other communications technologies in connecting devices to the Internet of Things (IoT).

HaLow operates in the 900MHz band, offering twice the range, a more robust connection and greater power efficiency than the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies currently used for Wi-Fi.

This makes its more ideal for devices such as sensors, which can be either too numerous or remotely located, making it unpractical to change batteries or to use existing Wi-Fi bands.

Wi-Fi HaLow

Network abstract finger touch wireless wi-fi © flydragon ShutterstockRival technologies such as LTE, SIGFOX and Bluetooth also have their eye on the IoT, but the Wi-Fi Alliance says many HaLow devices will be compatible with the majority of the 6.8 billion Wi-Fi-enabled units already in use.

“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,” said Edgar Figueroa, President and CEO of 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 Alliance is also looking at other ways of making Wi-Fi more suitable for the IoT, such as the development of a secure system that can connect and configure devices to a network without the need for a display.

The mobile industry has also recognised the need for a low power wide area (LPWA) LTE standard for IoT, but progress on finalising Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) has been less smooth, with Vodafone admitting its frustration. It argues NB-IoT is necessary if cellular is to compete with Wi-Fi and others and held the first commercial trial of the technology with Huawei in Spain last month.

“It’s an opportunity that we think is absolutely purpose fit for operators,” Luke Ibbetson, Vodafone’s head of research and development told the Huawei Mobile Broadband Forum in Hong Kong in November. “But we’re under pressure because we quite frankly don’t have a solution in the right shape. We’re having to turn down perfectly good customers.

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