Rethinking Wi-Fi: 10 reasons why Wi-Fi HaLow will drive IoT

Rethinking Wi-Fi: 10 reasons why Wi-Fi HaLow will drive IoT

While traditional Wi-Fi is the most ubiquitous wireless communication protocol in use today, the rapid growth of the Internet of Things is forcing a rethink of Wi-Fi, revealing technology gaps and, in an all-encompassing, connected world, Wi-Fi -What role does Fi need to play. Many IoT and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications, the higher demand for long-range connectivity and the need for low power consumption, are leading the development of 802.11ah Wi-Fi HaLow at an ever-increasing rate now and in the future.

By: Shahar Feldman, Vice President of Marketing, Morse Micro

Compared to existing wireless technologies, Wi-Fi HaLow offers advantages including range, data rate and energy efficiency.

While traditional Wi-Fi is the most ubiquitous wireless communication protocol in use today, the rapid growth of the Internet of Things has forced a rethink of Wi-Fi, revealing technology gaps and, in an all-encompassing, connected world, Wi-Fi -What role does Fi need to play. Many IoT and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications, the higher demand for long-range connectivity and the need for low power consumption, are leading the development of 802.11ah Wi-Fi HaLow at an ever-increasing rate now and in the future.

Wi-Fi HaLow technology is standardized by the IEEE 802.11ah task group and named by the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA). Wi-Fi HaLow operates in the unlicensed sub-GHz band, offering data rates ranging from hundreds of Kb/s to tens of Mb/s, and transmission distances from tens of meters to over a kilometer. Wi-Fi HaLow meets the scalability, robustness and security required to tackle the most challenging IoT environments.

So, what makes Wi-Fi HaLow the ideal wireless communication technology to support the Internet of Things? Here are ten key reasons why Wi-Fi HaLow addresses the fundamental weaknesses of existing technologies.

1. Energy efficiency

The 802.11ah Wi-Fi HaLow protocol promotes energy saving for devices that can sleep for long periods of time. This provides the widest range of power options, from small batteries for short-range applications, to larger battery, higher power devices beyond 1 km.

Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) technology uses advanced modulation and coding schemes to provide higher throughput by adapting data rates to channel conditions. Higher throughput means less air time for information transmission, which means the radio can go back to sleep faster, saving energy. WLAN’s “listen before talk” protocol means less contention for the medium and less energy wasted on packet retransmissions.

Wi-Fi HaLow idle and sleep modes, combined with Morse Micro’s patented circuit design technology, allow more data to be transferred per unit of energy and reduce idle power consumption, thus competing with other technologies.

2. Data rate

Wi-Fi HaLow offers the widest range of data rates to accommodate IoT applications such as streaming tens of Mb/s and lower rate applications such as temperature sensors, door locks or mailboxes. Just like Wi-Fi, the rate can be adjusted automatically based on changing conditions or distance from an access point (AP).

3. Scope

Wi-Fi HaLow provides sub-1 GHz narrowband signals from 1 meter to >1 km for extended coverage, from smart homes to large warehouses, without the need for repeaters or mesh networks. Narrowband signals can reach 10 times the range, 100 times the area, or 1000 times the capacity of traditional 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi or Bluetooth compared to shorter range 5 GHz Wi-Fi 5/6 (802.11ac/ax) and 6 GHz Wi-Fi Fi 6E (802.11ax) is even higher (Figure 1).

Rethinking Wi-Fi: 10 reasons why Wi-Fi HaLow will drive IoT
Figure 1: Wi-Fi HaLow – 1000 times the capacity of traditional Wi-Fi. (Source: Morse Micro)

4. Penetration of building materials

The physics is simple, the lower the frequency, the stronger the penetration (lower propagation loss in free space) (Figure 2). Wi-Fi HaLow uses 750 MHz – 950 MHz spectrum, 2.5 times lower than 2.4-GHz Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 4 or Zigbee, 5 times lower than 5-GHz Wi-Fi 5, and 6 times lower than 6-GHz Wi-Fi 6e times. Changes in the construction materials and layout of homes and buildings have less impact on Wi-Fi HaLow signals.

Rethinking Wi-Fi: 10 reasons why Wi-Fi HaLow will drive IoT
Figure 2: Wi-Fi HaLow provides superior range and superior building material penetration. (Source: Morse Micro)

5. Security

Wi-Fi HaLow requires the state-of-the-art WPA3 security standard to authenticate and encrypt data. Morse Micro supports existing WPA3 and Wi-Fi future security improvements (Figure 3). The higher data rates of Wi-Fi HaLow enable fast over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates, whereas many long-range wireless technologies, such as LoRa or Sigfox, require devices to be offline for extended periods of time to complete such updates.

Rethinking Wi-Fi: 10 reasons why Wi-Fi HaLow will drive IoT
Figure 3: Wi-Fi HaLow uses the state-of-the-art WPA3 security standard and supports wireless security upgrades, so the network is not affected. (Source: Morse Micro)

6. Network data capacity

Wi-Fi HaLow specifies a wide range of data rates for up to 8191 devices per access point (AP) (Figure 4). Multiple signaling options reduce the overhead required to manage and control a large number of devices. One example is the Restricted Access Window (RAW: Restricted Access Window), a unique feature of Wi-Fi HaLow that allows access points to grant privileges to some sites to transmit their data, while others are forced to sleep, buffer Non-urgent data or both. This reduces collisions and frees up airspace for active devices to transmit more data at the fastest modulation and coding scheme (MCS) rates.

Rethinking Wi-Fi: 10 reasons why Wi-Fi HaLow will drive IoT
Figure 4: A single Wi-Fi HaLow access point can connect thousands of devices. (Image: Morse Micro)

7. Installation/Operational Costs

Wi-Fi HaLow supports local IP traffic just like traditional Wi-Fi. Simple installation requires only a Wi-Fi HaLow capable access point or router. No proprietary hub or gateway is required. This star network topology eliminates the need for a complex mesh of repeaters that can block messages and cause management problems with other wireless communication technologies. Wi-Fi HaLow uses unlicensed sub-1GHz spectrum, with no monthly fees and no cellular provider data plans.

8. License-free spectrum

Since Wi-Fi HaLow does not rely on mobile service providers, no service provider contracts are required. As with traditional Wi-Fi, customers own their equipment, using the license-free radio spectrum. This wireless communication technology operates globally in license-exempt frequency bands ranging from 750 MHz to 950 MHz. Wi-Fi HaLow doesn’t use the frequencies of cellular data carriers, which typically charge license fees and monthly fees. Certain usage restrictions may apply and may vary by country.

9. Interoperability and Customer Experience

Wi-Fi HaLow is a globally recognized standard that defines how devices communicate. As with previous generations of Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi HaLow equipment vendors ensure interoperability by following the guidance of the Wi-Fi Alliance, which provides specification and certification services to members. Other wireless IoT technologies are either proprietary or less well-organized, factors that can impact time-to-market, product cost, and customer experience.

Users will experience the same ease of use as traditional Wi-Fi networks. Combined with the simplicity of Wi-Fi HaLow’s single access point solution, it provides higher out-of-the-box installation success rates and removes the complexities and challenges of mesh network deployments.

10. Local IP support

Native support for IP traffic is defined in Wi-Fi HaLow, which is very similar to traditional Wi-Fi. By using a Wi-Fi HaLow-enabled router, all client devices can directly access the Internet using IPv4/IPv6 transport protocols, enabling cloud-based services and IoT data management. Other wireless IoT technologies, such as Bluetooth, Zigbee, Z-Wave, LoRa, and Sigfox, require a proprietary gateway that converts all local client traffic to IP traffic for internet access. These extra packet processing stages, which require wrapping extra data, increase latency and reduce its network efficiency.

Early in its deployment, Wi-Fi HaLow is expected to be used in indoor and outdoor applications that standard Wi-Fi cannot reach, such as battery-operated surveillance systems, wireless cameras, doorbells, and more. Another typical use case is large venues, where a single HaLow access point can replace a large number of other access points, avoiding inefficient, complex mesh structures, simplifying installation, and reducing total cost of ownership.

Industrial automation, process control sensors, building automation, warehouses and retail stores, and more, all need this technology to keep everything connected in an increasingly automated world. Indeed, Wi-Fi HaLow stands out for its versatility.

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