Advocates for Wi-Fi long have argued for use of Wi-Fi as a functional substitute for mobile access. That is substantially true in specific applications, as when mobile users switch to a public Wi-Fi hotspot for access.
The more-challenging scenario is an actual direct substitution of Wi-Fi for mobile access. And that is the objective of a new standard for low-power, wide-area communications using Wi-Fi, and promoted by the Wi-Fi Alliance.
The latest version of the “can Wi-Fi become a substitute for mobile access” is thinking about how connectivity will work for Internet of Things devices.
The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced a new “Wi-Fi HaLow” (pronounced “halo”) specification for products incorporating IEEE 802.11ah technology, operating at frequencies below 1 GHz and designed for longer-range, low-power IoT apps.
Wi-Fi HaLow extends Wi-Fi into the 900 MHz band, once more generally the province of mobile connections.
Doing so will enable HaLow transmission range nearly twice that of today’s Wi-Fi, and will not only be capable of transmitting signals further, but also providing a more robust connection in challenging environments where the ability to more easily penetrate walls or other barriers is an important consideration, the Wi-Fi Alliance argues.
Given the importance Wi-Fi access has assumed as a supplement to mobile network access, it is not surprising that some want to push the boundaries between mobile and Wi-Fi as the “primary” modes of access in other arenas as well.
Up to this point, Wi-Fi has been viewed mostly as an important supplement to mobile access, rather than as a full substitute. HaLow is different in the sense that it is designed to do so, by design.