New Low Power, Long Range WiFi Standard Approved

January 12, 2016

Jonathan Blackwood · January 8, 2016

The Wi-Fi Alliance has approved a new 802.11ah Wi-Fi standard they are calling ‘HaLow.’ The new standard will become a first step in allowing the Internet of Things (IoT) to become a reality on a large scale.

With wearables, sensors and other connected devices becoming more sophisticated and readily available, the announcement is a relief to consumers and manufacturers that need connectivity to strengthen in order for products to work. The big problem with IoT is that all of these connected devices need to be able to send data back to central hubs that collect and analyze the information. With current Wi-Fi standards, that wasn’t a possibility on a massive scale. HaLow, on the other hand, offers a longer range with more reliability and penetration of physical objects, with reasonable power usage. From the Wi-Fi alliance:

Wi-Fi HaLow operates in frequency bands below one gigahertz, offering longer range, lower power connectivity to Wi-Fi CERTIFIED products… Wi-Fi HaLow extends Wi-Fi into the 900 MHz band, enabling the low power connectivity necessary for applications including sensor and wearables. Wi-Fi HaLow’s range is nearly twice that of today’s Wi-Fi, and will not only be capable of transmitting signals further, but also providing a more robust connection in challenging environments where the ability to more easily penetrate walls or other barriers is an important consideration. Wi-Fi HaLow will broadly adopt Wi-Fi protocols and deliver many of the benefits that consumers have come to expect from Wi-Fi today, including multi-vendor interoperability, strong government-grade security, and easy setup.

So it looks like what we’ve all been waiting for: a strong, reliable, far-reaching wireless connection that can support a number of devices at once. According to Computerworld, Wi-Fi Alliance officials expect to launch a certification process for HaLow products in 2018. That doesn’t mean it won’t be in use until then – products that support the specifications are expected to enter the market much earlier. IEEE finalization is already in the technical faze. Computerworld also reports that HaLow will be certified for up to 18Mbps using a 4MHz-wide channel (as high as the Wi-Fi Alliance will initially certify gear). Companies will need to buy equipment upgrades to get HaLow, but experts expect the transition to be a natural upgrade for Wi-Fi.

In any case, the idea of the Internet of Things just got a lot more real with HaLow.