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Long Range 900MHz Wi-Fi 'HaLow' Standard Approved By Wi-Fi Alliance

The Wi-Fi Alliance announced that it approved a new wireless technology standard called the 802.11ah. The devices supporting it will work on the 900MHz band and will have twice the range of devices working on the 2.4GHz band. The new standard is meant to be used in smart homes, connected cars, digital healthcare, as well as in agricultural, industrial and smart city environments.

In the past few years, the Wi-Fi Alliance approved the 802.11ac standard, which provides roughly 1Gbps bandwidth over the 5GHz band, as well as the more recent 802.11ad, which has even higher multi-Gbps bandwidth, but works over a much shorter range on the 60GHz band.

The Wi-Fi Alliance has been focusing on improving bandwidth performance at the cost of range and lower obstacle penetration. However, with the new 802.11ah standard, codenamed "HaLow" (made up of the "ah" letters and the "low" word from low-power), the Wi-Fi Alliance wants to extend the range of its wireless technology and lower the power consumption for the embedded devices that will end up using it.

According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, the 900MHz band will allow the new wireless technology to not only have double the range of the current Wi-Fi standards, but it will also be able to penetrate walls and other obstacles more reliably.

The advantage of Wi-Fi HaLow over competing wireless standards will be that it's developed by a recognized consortium (the Wi-Fi Alliance), which has already created and promoted other wireless technologies that have become ubiquitous. In other words, there is a higher chance most router and device makers will implement this wireless technology instead of competing alternatives, or at least alongside them. The Wi-Fi Alliance must hope to once again dominate the embedded devices market where technologies such as Bluetooth and Thread/ZigBee are trying to gain a foothold right now.

Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. You can follow him at @lucian_armasu.

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  • DrakeFS
    and now I need another radio in next AP. Ah well, hopefully it works much better than the 2.4Ghz band for coverage. Any word on theoretical throughput?
    Reply
  • chicofehr
    I was going to buy a new router and usb dongle but I will now wait for the 802.11ah from a reputable brand to be released. Been on the old N for too long now.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    I was going to buy a new router and usb dongle but I will now wait for the 802.11ah from a reputable brand to be released. Been on the old N for too long now.
    Unless you have a device other than your smartphone that uses AC, you don't need to upgrade (and sometimes not even then).
    Reply
  • gggplaya
    17256655 said:
    I was going to buy a new router and usb dongle but I will now wait for the 802.11ah from a reputable brand to be released. Been on the old N for too long now.

    I actually have the power output of my router turned down so that it reaches every corner of house, but turned down to minimize how far outside the house it goes. That's the first layer of security.

    If your router can reach around your block, you're asking to be hacked, or even worse, if you leave it open with no password, they can do illegal things on your network, but the police will only knock on your door and take you to jail.

    Now, if you lived next to a close friend or relative, you can share the cost of the internet and the added range will be a huge benefit for that type of situation.

    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    17256645 said:
    and now I need another radio in next AP. Ah well, hopefully it works much better than the 2.4Ghz band for coverage. Any word on theoretical throughput?

    There are some issues with the 900MHz band though. It is a more narro band so speed will probably be lower than 2.4GHz maximum. One real issue though is the amount of devices that use the 900MHz band. It is still a lot:

    Hobbyist radios
    Two-way radios
    Cordless phones
    Baby monitors
    Municipal SCADA (Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition)
    Remote control of broadcast television cameras
    Tabletop wireless gambling/gaming machines
    RFID readers
    Wireless LAN point-to-point bridge links
    Sodium vapor lighting and other sources of spurious interference

    There is a lot of possible interference unless they can get a specific area of the band reserved for WiFi only applications. Distance will be its major benefit but throughput will be lower than 2.4 or 5GHz band devices.
    Reply
  • CtrlAltSup
    Most obvious source of interference in the 900mhz band is, to me, GSM/UMTS but that leaves some room for unlicensed spectrum which is what the devices mentioned by Jimmy use.

    There is interference between digital TV and LTE in adjacent bands. Can someone say why this would fare better than the 2.4ghz actors, particularly in densely populated areas?
    Waiting for an informed read of the http://www.wi-fi.org/discover-wi-fi/specifications

    Is it too much to ask for something more than reheated press releases?
    Reply
  • chicofehr
    I was going to upgrade anyway so having the newest revision is nice. Only upgrade it every 5+ years so getting the newest WiFi is good idea so it's future proof. Also it will still fully support the 2.5 & 5ghz so no problems with the slower 900. Distance is more important then speed when your Internet is only 7Mb :p
    Reply
  • tsnor
    and now I need another radio in next AP. Ah well, hopefully it works much better than the 2.4Ghz band for coverage. Any word on theoretical throughput?
    Based on looking a few years ago at 900 mhz long distance outdoor repeaters, I'd have said 1 mbit/sec tops. But googling I see devices like this one:

    Revolutionary 900MHz 2x2 MIMO AirMax TDMA Performance:
    100Mbps+ Real Throughput using 20MHz wide channels
    40Mbps+ Real Throughput using 10MHz wide channels
    20Mbps+ Real Throughput using 5MHz wide channels

    http://dl.ubnt.com/newsletters/0123a.html
    Reply
  • hannibal
    It can take a couple of years until we see first ah-devices in the market. How long we have had for example hdmi2 standard and now we are getting devices for that... Also the ac standard did come before the real devices, though it did not take very long time, because there were nonstandard versions in the market before final specks.
    Reply
  • nigelivey
    People please read: "The new standard is meant to be used in smart homes, connected cars, digital healthcare, as well as in agricultural, industrial and smart city environments."

    This is not intended for data transmission as you are thinking, more an extension of Zwave or Zigbee, home automation etc where trigger signals are required I believe the current standard for this is 433MHz
    Reply