IoT Strategies

Say Hello to HaLow, the New WiFi Spec for IoT

LAS VEGAS -- CES 2016 -- At CES this year, the Wi-Fi Alliance is revealing a new specification for the Internet of Things. At least it's announcing the name -- Wi-Fi HaLow -- and the expected capabilities of the new spec. Not mentioned in the press release, however, is the fact that the Alliance doesn't plan to begin certifying HaLow products until 2018.

And by then, WiFi may be two years too late to the IoT game.

First, the technical details. HaLow will operate in the 900MHz frequency band, putting it below the bands at 2.4GHz and 5GHz where WiFi devices operate today. It will use 802.11ah technology as defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) , and promises to deliver both longer-range and lower-power connectivity compared to traditional WiFi. HaLow is also touted as performing well in environments with dense building materials like concrete and stone, making it ideal for connecting sensors that live in basements and other fortified areas.

According to the Wi-Fi Alliance , HaLow will be a strong contender for connecting smart homes and smart cities. It won't have the range limitations of current standards like Zigbee, and it will offer all the advantages of the existing WiFi ecosystem including well established connection methods, strong security and consumer brand recognition.

Want to know more about the Internet of Things? Check out our dedicated IoT content channel here on Light Reading.

Unfortunately, HaLow is still years away. On the cellular front, Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) expects to begin testing Narrow-Band Long-Term Evolution (NB-LTE) technology for IoT in the early half of this year, and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) plans to start shipping NB-LTE chips by the latter half of 2016. There's also Narrowband Cellular IoT (CIoT) technology, supported by Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and others, which, along with Ericsson's preferred solution, is expected to contribute elements to an official narrow-band LTE standard currently being developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). (See Ericsson Expects 4G for the Machines in 2016 and Ericsson, Intel, Nokia Back New Narrowband LTE IoT Spec .)

IoT standards development work also includes efforts put forth by the LoRa Alliance , which is pushing the LoRa protocol (LoRaWAN) for Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWA). Sponsor members of the LoRa Alliance include Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) among others. (See LPWA: A Threat to 'Wait & See' IoT Operators?)

Outside of the standards race, multiple companies are already deploying proprietary IoT network technologies. French startup Sigfox recently announced that it's signed a deal to build out an IoT network in San Francisco, and the company says it plans to deploy its IoT technology in ten US cities over the next three months. Sigfox already boasts 5 million devices connected to its low-power IoT networks in ten European countries. (See There's a Sigfox at the Golden Gate.)

Rivaling Sigfox is another company called Ingenu, which has proprietary LPWA networks already in place in Phoenix and Dallas, with plans to expand to nine US cities by the end of this quarter and 30 cities by the end of the year. (See Ingenu Races Sigfox for US IoT Network Firsts.)

Wi-Fi Alliance Vice President of Marketing Kevin Robinson acknowledges that there are plenty of competing technologies when it comes to the field of IoT networking, but he doesn't see that as an impediment to HaLow's eventual success.

"The IoT space is still highly fragmented, and there's intense competition in the IoT space," says Robinson. "Going forward, it's unlikely that any one technology is going to own the IoT space, and in fact it's going to be a number of complementary technologies that ultimately make up IoT in general, and even in the smart home specifically you're going to see a number of different connectivity technologies occupying that space."

Robinson may be right, but two years is an eon in the tech industry, especially when so many heavyweights are competing for IoT supremacy. Two years is a long time to wait for HaLow's debut.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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mhhf1ve 1/11/2016 | 6:36:36 PM
Where is software defined radio? There are so many different radio specs for IoT... where is Software Defined Radio these days? It seems like SDR would be a good application for managing all these different standards...?  Or maybe I've missed something big that's holding SDR back in a signficant way.
joseluis.alvarez.mx 1/7/2016 | 7:33:25 PM
Interoperability Hi, so among this cocktail, do you have any comment for the Capabilities Exposure function oneM2M and 3GPP are buildming? Do you agree it is an appropiate deployment

KBode 1/5/2016 | 8:10:37 AM
Speed? Perhaps it was mentioned and I missed it. But I know the lower power and higher range comes at the trade off of slower speed, but I've yet to see what the speed of 802.11ah is going to be?
inkstainedwretch 1/4/2016 | 2:18:50 PM
Multiple standards My expectation is that just as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth were once nominal competitors but eventually got sorted into two distinct use-case categories, so too will the LP-WAN proposals get sorted into different use cases. After some die, of course. --Brian Santo
MordyK 1/4/2016 | 12:48:43 PM
Re: Certification on a legacy timeframe THat would give BT a leg up as there's an entire existing ecosystem, whereas most of the other standards and radio interfaces are brand new. Am I missing something?
TV Monitor 1/4/2016 | 12:44:36 PM
Re: Certification on a legacy timeframe MordyK

There are too many radio interfaces out there already and the IoT routers will support 5~6, that is what the IoT routers are for.
TV Monitor 1/4/2016 | 12:41:10 PM
Re: Certification on a legacy timeframe danielcawrey

There never was going to be single IoT radio interface standard. Multiple radio interfaces are supported by both AllSeen and IoTivity.

On the other hand, two IoT software interface standards cannot co-exist, one of two has to go away.
MordyK 1/4/2016 | 12:40:44 PM
Re: Certification on a legacy timeframe Mari, is there a reason you didnt mention Bluetooth with Mesh (originally from CSR) in the Smarthome category?
danielcawrey 1/4/2016 | 12:26:46 PM
Re: Certification on a legacy timeframe I think it is good to see there are going to be competing technologies for providing IoT connectivity.

While Wifi might be a few years off, it may be a lot cheaper than some of the other options that are going to arrive sooner. 
TV Monitor 1/4/2016 | 12:07:53 PM
Re: Competing standards As for the AllSeen vs IoTivity software interface battle, take a look at this.

All Samsung 2016 SmartTV models, select high-end fridge models, and smartphones will be compatible with SmartThings, Samsung's implementation of IoTivity. Samsung intends to use its CE muscle to push IoTivity running on Tizen down consumer's throat and make IoTivity the de-facto IoT standard by 2020, when all Samsung product including fridges, washers, dryers, microwaves, TVs, audio, smartphone, home security, etc will have IoTivity built in.

So the format war for the IoT future starts this year.
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