So What’s All This HaLow Long-Range WiFi About Then?

We’re all used to wireless networking, but if there’s one thing the ubiquitous WiFi on 2.4 or 5 GHz lacks, it’s range. Inside buildings, it will be stopped in its tracks by anything more than a mediocre wall, and outside, it can be difficult to connect at any useful rate more than a few tens of metres away without resorting to directional antennas and hope. Technologies such as LoRa provide a much longer range at the expense of minuscule bandwidth, but beyond that, there has been little joy. As [Andreas Spiess] points out in a recent video though, this is about to change, as devices using the so-called HaLow or IEEE 802.11ah protocol are starting to edge into the realm of affordability.

Perhaps surprisingly, he finds the 5 GHz variant to be best over a 1km test with a far higher bandwidth. However, we’d say that his use of directional antennas is something of a cheat. Where it does come into its own in his tests, though, is through masonry, with far better penetration across floors of a building. We think that this will translate to better outdoor performance when the line of sight is obstructed.

There’s one more thing he brings to our attention, which seasoned users of LoRA may already be aware of. These lower frequency allocations are different between the USA and Europe, so should you order one for yourself, it would make sense to ensure you have the appropriate model for your continent. Otherwise, we look forward to more HaLow devices appearing and the price falling even further because we think this will lead to some good work in future projects.

We’ve looked at 801.22ah — known as HaLow — before. The spec has been around for almost a decade, but affordable hardware hasn’t been.

18 thoughts on “So What’s All This HaLow Long-Range WiFi About Then?

    1. As usual for a video from Andreas Spiess, his testing was very thorough, so click through to the video and find out. But it’s not ‘5G’ , it’s 5GHz WiFi tested alongside HaLow

    1. Good ‘ol HikVision 😅 not the most secure of cameras. I once did some contract work for Free Speech Systems and I had to hack their HikVision camera network in order to extract the password which they didn’t know, since it had been set up by a 3rd party vendor. The password to all their cameras was, unsurprisingly, “infowars1776” .. and probably still is 😂

      1. Not just insecure, bleeping unethical. Hikvision is known for making facial recognition software for its cameras then optimising it for governmental oppression purposes, particularly to serve the interests of the “middle-kingdom” (having to use The Register’s nickname for the place, as criticism of that tyranny by name on here usually leads to comments never appearing). There’s a good moral argument for a boycott of all HikVision products, sabotage of their production lines and punishing their chief executive(s) would be even more ethical.

  1. I have had my router in a masonry building and could easily cover 25m trough 4 walls with decent speeds. I now have that same router in one corner of my rebar&concrete appartment where the longest diagonal is 15m, and yet I installed a second (wired) access point for lack of usable range.

    1. @Ricardo said: “801.22ah or 801.11ah?”

      Neither, it’s IEEE 802.11ah. HaLow has been around since 2017:

      IEEE 802.11ah [1] is a wireless networking protocol published in 2017 called Wi-Fi HaLow (/ˈheɪˌloʊ/) as an amendment of the IEEE 802.11-2007 wireless networking standard. It uses 900 MHz license-exempt bands to provide extended-range Wi-Fi networks, compared to conventional Wi-Fi networks operating in the 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 6 GHz bands. It also benefits from lower energy consumption, allowing the creation of large groups of stations or sensors that cooperate to share signals, supporting the concept of the Internet of things (IoT). The protocol’s low power consumption competes with Bluetooth, LoRa, and Zigbee, and has the added benefit of higher data rates and wider coverage range.

      1. IEEE 802.11ah

  2. As ever, Andreas Spiess blows it out of the water for quality information. There’s genuinely a case for remitting commissions on sales, when the content that affiliate stipend supports, does so much for those with like interests.

    IEEE 802.11ah HaLow isn’t a patch on 4G. Who can’t get a spare phone or two, to use for such links?

  3. There was a guy who lived on top of a mountain South West of San Jose CA. There was no internet access anywhere nearby. So, he got himself a C band satellite dish and replaced the LNB amp with a little USB Wifi adaptor, and ran the USB cable to his PC. He mounted the 8′ dish on a mobile mount that could be steered horizontally, and vertically. Since he lived above Silicon Valley, all he would do is scan his dish across the valley until he found an unsecured network, and connect for some free internet, at full speed no less. He was able to connect to networks as far North as Union City just South of Oakland 50 miles away. Yeah, he was long dxing over 50 miles with standard WiFi at the 2.4Gig band.

    1. Depending on the band, it’s not about the power of the transmission limits, it’s about the size and shape of the antenna. Most HF bands can be perfectly usable with just 500 mW when the bands are open. When they’re closed, not even 1 kW will work. Likewise, don’t try this with 60 GHz, because the atmosphere has high opacity around 60GHz. 60 GHz usually only make it a few hundred feet even with big parabolic dishes and even less when raining. As this example shows, with the right antenna you can interact on the 2.4 GHz band many miles away. Even a $30 stamped metal Yagi for 2.4 GHz is good for miles rain or shine. Voice of experience I own one. Keep that in mind if you’re ever tempted to use less than robust encryption like Bluetooth.

    2. Not only is this illegal as there is an FCC power limit, the noise floor would prevent getting “full speed”. Lastly, using a USB adapter over distance is seriously stupid. You don’t mention what year this was, but it would have to be 802.11b and about 20 years ago.

  4. We started doing 25+ mile links (using ISM bands) in 1993, repurposing NCR full length ISA card radios (designed for wireless cash registers). This isn’t new stuff at all. I’ve don’t almost 50 mile shots with unlicensed 2.4 band equipment (line-of-sight), and outdoor multipoint building-to-building networks with more than 30 buildings. It’s a little silly announcing this stuff as if it’s anything new. They may have assigned a standards name to it, but commercially companies have been using ISM band equipment around the world for long range outdoor broadband wireless for more than 30 years.

  5. It’s a pity how the longer range variants always seem to be confined to slightly obscure chipsets and devices, even when using frequencies that overlap with the really common wifi standards.

    I’m obviously not expecting to get the performance of a fixed wireless pair of directional antennas out of a laptop or mobile omni antenna; but there are great many situations where it would be better to have a solid link, even if a slow one, rather than a theoretically fast link that keeps dropping out.

  6. I’m having a play with some 868mhz AH modules (Branded Anjielo) for UAV use, pretty interesting! The most major thing is that once powered it causes major interference issues with an 868mhz RC Rx, I need to try with a 2.4ghz RC link.

    But for a setup like: Steamdeck > USB ethernet > Ground AH module > Air AH module > Flight controller it’s pretty sleek. With an ethernet switch (on the way) it should easily allow a HD video stream alongside joystick control.

  7. > “Perhaps surprisingly, he finds the 5 GHz variant to be best over a 1km test with a far higher bandwidth. However, we’d say that his use of directional antennas is something of a cheat.”

    I’m not sure that’s completely fair; using directional antennas on these bands is exactly what the spectrum rules are designed to encourage, and you naturally get more gain from the same size with higher bands. That means you can have flat panel arrays instead of 6ft yagi’s, and people tend to be much more willing to deal with one over the other. (They want people using gain instead of power because that makes for less interference.) Another thing you can do with the higher bands is beamforming, which lets you have enough gain to get anything done while still being able to either do multipoint or aim easier.

    On the various bands, in my off the cuff opinion: Generally for networking / rural WISP purposes 900MHz can propagate through a bit of terrain and trees, but is interfered with by too many things and the band is not very large. The tech on it also isn’t as advanced as on other bands; directional dual-polarization antennas are about the limit. 2.4 is overwhelmingly used for wifi, has more trouble with leaves and walls, and the band is still not huge. 3.65 / CBRS rewards you for the extra effort with much increased allowable transmission strength and a good amount of mostly-clear spectrum, so it’s generally a winner for point to multipoint. Tarana seems to make the most of it at the moment, and I hope to try them out sometime. 5GHz (and 6, now) has plenty of spectrum but everything absorbs or reflects it. Depending on the specific portion of the band, at least you can use a very high gain and decent power to make a point to point link work as long as you have almost perfect line of sight. You can also get more advanced tech on cbrs and 5ghz – not just beamforming but higher degrees of mimo than 2×2, and even delay-doppler signaling stuff. There’s licensed bands that do better point to point of course, just by power gain and bandwidth, but 5 can be pretty decent for a free one.

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