A decade after its first introduction, Wi-Fi HaLow is now finally poised for its go-to-market. For this to be successful, a compelling argument must be crafted to convince consumers of the need to adopt this new technology.
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Wi-Fi HaLow's Profile Boosted by a Flurry of Recent Announcements
January 2024 saw leading Wi-Fi HaLow proponent Morse Micro announce a wave of significant Wi-Fi HaLow developments. First, there was the unveiling of Edgecore’s EAP112 router, the first in the industry to support Wi-Fi HaLow and Wi-Fi 6, alongside a collection of other major Internet of Things (IoT) standards. Then there was the report that Quectel’s FGH100M module, which leverages Morse Micro’s MM6108 System-on-Chip (SoC), has received certification by both the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States and Conformité Européenne (CE) in Europe. There was also news of Morse Micro’s partnership with Zetifi, which intends to leverage Wi-Fi HaLow for its last-mile connectivity solutions for rural environments. These announcements paint a picture of a Wi-Fi HaLow ecosystem that is growing in maturity, gaining greater acceptance, and has clear real-world applications. Although Morse Micro has now established the groundwork for the go-to-market of its Wi-Fi HaLow chipsets, it still needs to make a strong case for why consumers and enterprises should adopt a new technology that is not yet tried and tested.
Wi-Fi HaLow Now a Viable Technology after Almost a Decade of Foundation Building
Morse Micro’s recent announcements have been almost a decade in the making. Ever since the company’s establishment in 2016, Morse Micro has held an unwavering belief in the potential of Wi-Fi HaLow, which it sees as a powerful combination of high data rates over long distances, excellent energy efficiency, superior building penetration, interoperability with other Wi-Fi protocols, Wi-Fi-grade security, and support for more than 8,000 devices connected to a single Access Point (AP). These attributes are unique among IoT technologies (a detailed comparison can be found in a recent ABI Insight), with competing alternatives all suffering from a reliance on the heavily congested 2.4 Gigahertz (GHz) spectrum and/or are unable to deliver relatively high throughputs required for data-hungry IoT applications. Spurred on by a faith in Wi-Fi HaLow’s potential, Morse Micro invested several years in developing its first chipsets, the MM6108 and MM6104, which were eventually released in 2021. A year later, in 4Q 2022, Morse Micro’s internal confidence in Wi-Fi HaLow received external validation when the company secured US$94 million through Series B funding, a sum representing one of the largest outside investments in Wi-Fi chipset technology in the preceding decade.
Since then, Morse Micro has gradually worked on building its go-to-market strategy. In 2023, it entered a range of new strategic partnerships with Wi-Fi module vendors, including AzureWave and Quetel, with the FGH100M module using Morse Micro’s MM6108 SoC, which recently received FCC and CE certification. It also partnered with Chicony Electronics in 1Q 2023 to help bring to market the first Wi-Fi HaLow consumer end-user device, an Internet Protocol (IP) camera (which used the MM6108). An IP camera was a shrewd choice, because its needs for relatively high data rates and strong energy efficiency make it perhaps the best product to showcase the strengths of Wi-Fi HaLow and the technology’s differentiation from other IoT technologies. January’s announcements—the introduction of the EAP112 router, the FCC and CE certification of the FGH100M, and the partnership with Zetifi—represent a continuation of Morse Micro’s go-to-market strategy for Wi-Fi HaLow.
While Morse Micro is the most high-profile Wi-Fi HaLow chipset developer, it is not the sole one. Other key Wi-Fi HaLow ecosystem vendors include chipset vendors Palma Ceia SemiDesign, Methods2Business, and Newracom, the latter of which in 4Q 2023 released its NRC7394 SoC for the market. Also notable is Silex Technology, which provides a complete Wi-Fi HaLow infrastructure ecosystem for industrial applications, including the SX-NEWAH 802.11ah module, the AP-100AH AP, and the BR-100AH. In contrast to Morse Micro, which has focused more on residential and enterprise applications, the above vendors have primarily targeted industrial applications, and have found a moderate level of success in deployments for applications, including vibration monitoring, which 2.4 GHz reliance IoT technologies are unable to handle. Although limited in scope, the success that these vendors have experienced in select industrial applications highlights a tough reality of Wi-Fi HaLow—it is a technology that does not have broad appeal, but one that has a clearly defined yet narrow niche.
The Keys to a Successful Go-to-Market for Wi-Fi HaLow
The unique attributes of Wi-Fi HaLow hold the potential to enable a wealth of new IoT applications and bring significant disruption to the IoT ecosystem, but delivery on this promise is contingent on a successful go-to-market. This requires the creation of a compelling argument to convince consumers that they need to adopt this new technology. Rather than crafting the message around the capabilities of Wi-Fi HaLow, which will be abstract for most consumers, ecosystem vendors should instead focus on the new applications and experiences that it will enable. To ensure a clear and cohesive message is conveyed to consumers, the ecosystem should collaborate to identify and promote several such applications, which can be used to excite consumers about Wi-Fi HaLow’s potential. For inspiration, Wi-Fi HaLow can look to another nascent Wi-Fi technology—Wi-Fi sensing. The ecosystem has coalesced around two key applications for this technology, namely remote healthcare and security, orientating their messaging around these. This has helped illustrate exactly how Wi-Fi sensing will benefit consumers. If the Wi-Fi HaLow ecosystem were to pinpoint several of its most promising applications, it could follow a similar approach.
Wi-Fi HaLow will face a host of other challenges as it enters its go-to-market phase, including:
- Challenges from Incumbents: There are numerous existing IoT connectivity protocols with which Wi-Fi HaLow must compete. These include short-range technologies like Bluetooth® Low Energy (LE) and Zigbee, and Wide Area Network (WAN) solutions such as Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT), Sigfox, and LoRa.
- Niche Addressable Market: Wi-Fi HaLow is only attractive within the narrow field of applications in which it has an advantage over alternative solutions.
- Limited Ecosystem: Few chipset or equipment vendors have placed their faith in Wi-Fi HaLow, and not many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or Managed Service Providers (MSPs) have implemented the technology in their solutions. This is causing industry to question the technology’s future, leaving the ecosystem short of competition-driven innovation.
- Regulatory Divergence: Spectrum access and power level regulations impacting Wi-Fi HaLow vary significantly between regions, with the data rates currently possible in Europe less than half of those available in the United States and Canada.
- Lack of Reference Case Studies: Being the new kid on the block means that Wi-Fi HaLow has few success stories that it can point to, a problem as potential customers are hesitant to adopt a technology that has yet to prove itself.
While the challenges are many, there are concrete steps that the ecosystem can take to overcome them:
- Avoid Competition with Legacy IoT: Wi-Fi HaLow advocates should not waste their energy trying to convince users to migrate away from legacy IoT for applications that these technologies are already performing. Instead, emphasize the new applications that Wi-Fi HaLow alone is best equipped to support.
- Double-Down on Core Strengths: Wi-Fi HaLow needs to acknowledge its narrow appeal and should position itself as the go-to solution for these key applications. This also requires a focus on developing hardware and partnerships that are orientated around the technology’s main strengths.
- Expanded Partnerships: Wi-Fi HaLow vendors should focus on enlarging the technology’s ecosystem through strategic partnerships. Morse Micro has several recent successes in this field, but if it is to break into the residential and enterprise markets, it needs to foster deeper bonds with ISPs and MSPs.
- Spectrum Alignment: Wi-Fi HaLow advocates should organize regional representative bodies to advocate for spectrum alignment worldwide. Regulatory convergence will be necessary for ecosystem scalability and performance parity between markets.
- Technology Trials: Large-scale trials can help boost confidence in Wi-Fi HaLow by demonstrating its advantages in various scenarios. The most significant initiative currently underway is being conducted by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) through the Wi-Fi HaLow for IoT Applications Work Group.