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Wi-Fi Startups Polish HaLow for IoT

Market dynamics delay chip rollouts

SAN JOSE, Calif., Jan. 03, 2019 – 

After an unusual two-year delay, silicon for a new Wi-Fi standard is starting to emerge. Over the next few months, a handful of startups will sample chips for 802.11ah, a 900-MHz version of Wi-Fi targeting long-range links especially for the internet of things.

The so-called HaLow products promise delivery of up to Mbits/s over distances of tens of meters to a kilometer and support for thousands of nodes on an access point. They will occupy a space between ultra-low-power and -cost LoRa and Sigfox networks and below more power-hungry LTE Cat-M and Narrowband-IoT networks that come with data plans.

Some of the initial products will be single chips made in 40-nm processes, not likely to carry large price premiums. They represent a new breed of IoT options for unlicensed bands that support both IP networking and OFDM modulation familiar to the broad PC ecosystem. Long term, they will eke out a position as a fourth band extending the range of links for smartphones and PCs.

"HaLow stands out for its versatility in enabling new business models as well as capabilities in capacity, range, and battery operation, all of the attributes the market needs – it just needs an ecosystem to emerge," said one wireless veteran who asked not to be named.

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