Meet Wi-Fi HaLow, the future Wi-Fi with 1km range

5 Jan 2016

In order to properly bring in the age of the internet of things (IoT), capable of handling millions of low-power connections, the Wi-Fi Alliance is debuting its latest version of Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi HaLow, to do just that.

Time and time again we hear about the inevitable adoption of IoT technology across the board in almost every aspect of daily life, like in the home, transport or business, with all types of reports claiming that it will be worth trillions of dollars to the world economy.

The problem being, aside from the slow adoption of iPv6 to handle the amount of individual connected devices, is the strain that is expected to be put on routers.

But now, thanks to the work of the Wi-Fi Alliance of more than 700 vendors, which promotes and develops all things Wi-Fi, we should expect to have an entirely new form of Wi-Fi in 2018 known as Wi-Fi HaLow.

To advance it from the current standard of Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi HaLow will extend its reach into the 900MHz band to facilitate wearable devices and multiple sensors.

Wi-Fi HaLow also has a range estimate of as much as 1km, which will not only allow for the wireless signals to be transmitted twice as far as current Wi-Fi, but should also mean it is better able to penetrate the many, many obstacles the signals encounter in buildings, such as walls and metal girders.

Long distance, low speeds

HaLow, of course, won’t exist entirely separately from current Wi-Fi, with the newer model expected to work on the standard 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, all of which will allow connection to thousands of devices from a single point of access.

“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 the 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.”

Products capable of supporting the new standard are likely to be rolled out prior to its certification process in 2018, but some trade-offs are expected from its initial launch that might put the average consumer off from jumping on it from the get-go.

These include the likelihood that its highest data transfer rate will be the rather low 18Mbps on a 4MHz channel, or 150Kbps at its lowest using a 1MHz channel.

It will, however, as an IoT-geared standard, see little power consumption for the sensors, as well as having significantly faster speeds for small devices like sensors.

Wi-Fi router image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic