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What is Wi-Fi HaLow ?

Wi-Fi has changed the Internet Access design throughout and is now an integral part of our lives. There are more than 10 billion wi-fi-enabled devices as of now. However, Wi-Fi may not be a perfect match for IoT (Internet of Things), as it has specific range and energy efficiency limitations. The IoT's rapid expansion has forced a reconsideration of Wi-Fi. Increased demand for long-range connectivity and low power for numerous IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) applications is propelling the adoption of the 802.11ah protocol, better known with its marketing name 'Wi-Fi HaLow.'

Wi-Fi HaLow introduced in January 2016, is particularly suited for the modern IoT (Internet of Things) world where Wi-Fi devices have expanded to include a wide range of scenarios. Wi-Fi HaLow is the first Wi-Fi specification to operate in frequency bands below one gigahertz and has a range twice that of other Wi-Fi technologies. Wi-Fi HaLow is also able to penetrate through walls and other barriers. Wi-Fi HaLow has an extended range of connectivity which is up to one kilometer for an outdoor. Wi-Fi HaLow also has a robust connection with superior penetration to walls and other obstacles in homes and the industrial environment. It also has low power consumption for multi-year battery operations. Wi-Fi HaLow can be an excellent asset for bi-directional monitoring and controlling IoT clients, enabling over-the-air software updates. It allows having a large number of devices for a single access point.

While Wi-Fi HaLow is deployed as a star topology, it includes a simple hops relay operation to extend its range. It allows one device to act as an intermediary and relay data to another. The relay operation can be combined with a higher transmission rate or modulation and coding scheme (MCS). This means that a higher transmit by relay devices, talking directly to the access point. Wi-Fi HaLow also involves a technique known as Sectorization. It divides the coverage area into several sectors to get reduced contention within a specific sector. This technique helps limit collisions in cells that have many clients. Sectorization uses an antenna array and beam-forming techniques to partition the cell coverage area. Wi-Fi HaLow comes with the latest WPA3 security for data encryption and authentication.

The prominent use cases for IEEE 802.11ah (or say Wi-Fi HaLow) involve – sensors and meters covering an intelligent grid, Backhaul aggregation of industrial sensors and meter data, and extended range Wi-Fi. It is ideal for short burst t data that doesn't consume much power and needs to travel long distances. Think of intelligent building applications like smart lighting and intelligent security system. It can also be used for smart city applications like parking meters and garages. The disadvantage of Wi-Fi HaLow is that there is no global standard for 900 megahertz right now. Most of the world uses 2.4 gigahertz Wi-Fi which means you can connect on this international standard band globally, but the same is not the case for HaLow because there isn't a global standard for 900 megahertz.

Wi-Fi HaLow is gaining light with several adaptations coming its way. Big companies are planning to associate silicon chips with HaLow in products. One thing is quite comprehensive: if Wi-Fi HaLow succeeds in adapting the global standard, it will change how people look at Wi-Fi now. Moreover, it also has robust market competition ahead like - LoRaWAN, Zigbee, Sigfox, etc.


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