Wi-Fi CERTIFIED HaLow Makes Its Debut—and Graduates Its First Reference Design

November 05, 2021 by Jake Hertz

Wi-Fi HaLow is described as having the best combination of range, throughput, density, low-power operation, and deployment costs. Now, the certification program will bring this latest IEEE standard to market.

The Internet of Things (IoT) brings with it a series of new wireless connectivity challenges. Designers in this space aim for long-range connectivity, low power consumption, high reliability, and high throughput—a series of specs that are often difficult to achieve at the same time. 

In an effort to bring these parameters to life simultaneously, the IEEE released its IEEE 802.11ah standard—branded by the Wi-Fi Alliance as Wi-Fi HaLow—back in 2016. Now, building on this momentum, the Wi-Fi Alliance has announced the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED HaLow, the industry’s first certification program for Wi-Fi HaLow products. 


WiFi HaLow

Wi-Fi HaLow operates at a sub-1 GHz band. Image used courtesy of the Wi-Fi Alliance

In this article, we’ll talk about the IEEE 802.11ah standard, the new certification program, and how companies are already taking Wi-Fi CERTIFIED HaLow to market. 


What Is Wi-Fi HaLoW?

The IEEE 802.11ah standard, also known as Wi-Fi HaLow, is a new wireless standard meant specifically to address the challenges of IoT devices

Wi-Fi HaLow, which supports standard modulation schemes including BPSK, QPSK, and 16 to 256 QAM, operates in the sub-1 GHz range (~902 MHz–928 MHz) while employing channel widths ranging from 1 MHz to 16 MHz. This is compared to a typical 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz speed employed by other Wi-Fi standards.

By operating in this lower frequency range, Wi-Fi HaLow can achieve ranges up to 1 km, where other Wi-Fi standards achieve ranges closer to 100 m. The tradeoff with distance, of course, is speed. HaLow can achieve an impressive top speed of 80 Mbps at 1 m and 16 GHz channel widths, but drops significantly to 150 kbps at 1 km. 



Some key features and benefits of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED HaLow. Image used courtesy of Wi-Fi Alliance


The standard also offers a variety of other features that are crucial to IoT deployment. These include: 

  • The ability to penetrate through walls and obstacles 
  • Extremely low power consumption thanks to a variety of deep sleep power-saving modes
  • Low cost by operating on low-complexity radios
  • Decreased silicon complexity 


The Wi-Fi HaLow Certification Program and Its First Graduate: Morse Micro 

This week, the Wi-Fi Alliance is introducing Wi-Fi CERTIFIED HaLow, a new certification program for the 802.11ah standard. The Alliance hopes the new program will allow for rapid mainstream adoption of the standard.

It already looks like this adoption is taking place. This week Morse Micro unveiled a new Wi-Fi CERTIFIED HaLow reference design—the first to reach the market. 

The new reference design leverages Morse Micro’s MM6108 and MM6104 SoCs to provide a single-chip HaLow solution, which includes the physical radio, PHY, and MAC and can achieve data rates up to tens of Mbps.


Block diagram of MM610x family SoCs

Block diagram of MM610x family SoCs. Image used courtesy of Morse Micro


The RF interface on the SoCs gives designers the option to use either on-chip or off-chip amplification for low-power applications or to use additional external amplifiers for ultra-long-range applications. The design also enables extended sleep times for lower power consumption on battery-operated devices. 


Wi-Fi HaLow Connects in Hard-to-Reach Places

Wi-Fi HaLow is considered an open standard within the Wi-Fi portfolio, meaning it doesn't require proprietary gateways, controllers, or hubs. Wi-Fi HaLow networks will not interfere with the RF performance of other Wi-Fi networks, including Wi-Fi 4, 5, and 6. 

This new network type is described as having a star-oriented architecture that negates many challenges associated with mesh networks, including data bottlenecks and latencies when delivering data over long distances. 

The Wi-Fi Alliance asserts that Wi-Fi HaLow may be useful in "hard-to-reach places" likes attics, basements, garages, factories, warehouses, and spacious outdoor areas.