HaLow WiFi Standard Brings Its Own Set of Highs and Lows
NEWS ANALYSIS: The WiFi Alliance announces a new standard for lower-frequency communications aimed primarily at the Internet of things.The WiFi Alliance has released a new standard for wireless communications that acknowledges some basic facts about radio communications that have frustrated users for years. Those basic facts involve the distance and building penetration capabilities of 2.4GHz WiFi and, to an even greater extent, 5GHz WiFi. The bottom line is that WiFi has some pretty short ranges and doesn't go through walls very well. The new 900MHz standard uses frequencies that eliminate some of those problems, but as you might expect, will introduce some problems of their own. The unlicensed part of the 900MHz frequency band is shared by a number of licensed services, including private land mobile communications, some types of medical equipment and amateur radio, all of which operate in the 902–928 band planned for what the WiFi Alliance is calling HaLow, but which is really called 802.11ah. In addition to the licensed services, other unlicensed services, including NCR WaveLAN, occupy this section of radio spectrum. WaveLAN is the predecessor of WiFi and was used in much the same way. I first reviewed WaveLAN for Byte magazine long ago, and while you might think it's obsolete to the point of extinction, it's still being used.
The advantage to WiFi users is that 900MHz is such a low frequency that it exhibits propagation characteristics more akin to radio waves than what you find in the microwave regions above 1GHz. While 900MHz is still only suitable for line-of-sight communications, it has excellent range, and it will go through walls far better than WiFi has in the past.