Fabless Semiconductor startup Morse Micro, founded in 2016 by ex-Broadcom engineers, is sampling its Wi-Fi HaLow system-on-chips (SoCs) and modules initially to early access partners and key customers. These samples and evaluation kits enable developers to evaluate the throughput, power efficiency, and extended range of the company’s Wi-Fi HaLow solutions.

Morse Micro samples Wi-Fi HaLow SoCs and modules

Source: Morse Micro

Claiming the industry’s smallest, fastest, and lowest power IEEE 802.11ah compliant SoCs in its Wi-Fi HaLow portfolio, Morse Micro is sampling its MM6104 and MM6108 single-chip solutions that incorporate the radio, PHY, and MAC section, supporting data rates up to 43.3 Mbits/s.

The difference between the two devices is channel bandwidth. The MM6104 supports 1-, 2-, and 4-MHz bandwidth and has a 15 Mbits/s PHY rate, targeting applications that don’t require a lot of throughput but requires range. The higher performance MM6108 supports  1-, 2-, 4-, and 8-MHz bandwidth, offering a PHY rate up to 32.5 Mbits/s. Morse Micro said most chip solutions available today only support up to 4 MHz.

What is Wi-Fi HaLow?

The Wi-Fi HaLow, or the IEEE 802.11ah standard, was approved in 2016. The standards-based solutions offer ultra-low power, longer range, and secure connections at much higher capacities compared to existing wireless technologies.

Wi-Fi HaLow signals, which use narrow frequency bands in the unlicensed sub-1 GHz spectrum outside the 2.4-GHz traditional Wi-Fi band, penetrate obstacles more easily and can extend beyond 1 km to connect IoT devices across residential, retail, office park, campus, warehouse and factory environments.

According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, Wi-Fi HaLow provides 10× the range, 100× the area, and 1000× the volume of traditional 2.4-GHz Wi-Fi solutions. The Wi-Fi Alliance is developing a Wi-Fi HaLow certification program, which is expected to be complete in the second half of 2021.

Rethinking Wi-Fi: 10 reasons why Wi-Fi HaLow will supercharge the IoT

Wi-Fi HaLow provides low power consumption; it’s very good for battery operation because it operates in the sub-GHz range rather than  2.4 or 5 or 6 GHz; it provides a much longer distance, which is generally 10× times further than the current Wi-Fi, reaching over 1 km, said Vahid Manian, Morse Micro’s chief operating officer. “It has much better penetration through materials such as walls, doors, and floors; offers a much higher density in the network, and can support all the way up to almost 8,200 stations, plus it is IPv6 compatible so it’s compatible with standard Wi-Fi.”

Morse Micro samples Wi-Fi HaLow SoCs and modules

Click for larger image. (Source: Morse Micro)

Developed specifically for the IoT and supporting the latest WPA3 security, a single Wi-Fi HaLow access point (AP) can connect up to 8,191 devices, which can simplify network deployment and reduce costs. This is particularly advantageous in applications such as industrial automation and electronic shelf labelling, which would need multiple access points.

Morse Micro expects the first applications to adopt Wi-Fi HaLow will include wireless cameras, whole-home coverage, mobile devices, access control, industrial automation, and electronic shelf labels.

The first target application likely will be wireless cameras where penetration through windows, walls, or ceilings is very difficult with standard Wi-Fi. “They always have to be very close to the access point or hub, and it requires as a minimum for HD streaming 2 Mbits/s, and if you have four cameras it requires a minimum of 8 Mbits/s throughput,” said Manian.

“Only standard Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi HaLow can support 8 Mbits/s but standard Wi-Fi has a range problem,” he said. “Wi-Fi HaLow solves that problem and gives you the throughput and also the penetration and the reach so it’s a perfect sweet spot for that market.”

Standard Wi-Fi operates in frequency domains such as 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz and Wi-Fi HaLow operates in sub-GHz in the U.S. at 902-928 MHz, said Manian. Channel bandwidth for standard Wi-Fi is 20, 40, 80, and 160 MHz and Wi-Fi HaLow is 1, 2, 4, and 8, so it’s a much shorter channel bandwidth, which allows you to go further, he added.

Manian also noted that a 16-MHz option for Wi-Fi HaLow is available but it is only available in the United States.

“For addressable number of stations per AP, Wi-Fi HaLow can support all the way up to 8,200 and standard Wi-Fi is 2,000 but I don’t think there is any AP out there that has been able to support more than 500,” said Manian.

Single stream MCS data rates is one drawback of Wi-Fi HaLow, said Manian. “Being in the sub-GHz range as well as a smaller channel, it doesn’t have the same throughput that standard Wi-Fi does. Standard Wi-Fi can go anywhere from 6 Mbits/s all the way up to 150 Mbits/s, and Wi-Fi HaLow goes from 150 Kbits/s to 43 Mbits/s. It is lower throughput but for many applications it is sufficient enough and it’s much more superior to competing technologies.”

One of those advantages include range. Even though a few technologies can go much farther up to 10 km, they’re generally transmitting bits per second, not even kbits/s, said Manian.

Morse Micro samples Wi-Fi HaLow SoCs and modules

Click for a larger image. (Source: Morse Micro)

Wi-Fi HaLow also offers a much better radio energy efficiency comparison on bits per joule than any other competing technology, and is five times better than the best one in energy efficiency, which is Wi-SUN, and almost an order of magnitude better than LoRaWAN and others, said Manian. It also offers a much longer battery life over three years for the same size battery than the 802.15.4, he added.

Morse Micro samples Wi-Fi HaLow SoCs and modules

Click for a larger image. (Source: Morse Micro)

Wi-Fi HaLow SoCs

As noted earlier, the MM6104 SoC supports 1-, 2-, and 4-MHz channel bandwidth and provides up to 15 Mbits/s PHY rate. The higher performance MM6108 SoC supports up to 8-MHz bandwidth with up to a 32.5 Mbits/s PHY rate. Both SoCs, housed in a 6 × 6-mm QFN48 package, provide a single-chip Wi-Fi HaLow solution incorporating the radio, PHY, and MAC, offer data rates that range from tens of Mbits/s to hundreds of Kbits/s, and supports the latest WPA3 security. The radio supports operation in sub-GHz ISM bands worldwide between 750 MHz and 950 MHz.

Morse Micro samples Wi-Fi HaLow SoCs and modules

Click for a larger image. (Source: Morse Micro)

Morse Micro samples Wi-Fi HaLow SoCs and modules

MM61xx evaluation kit. Click for a larger image. (Source: Morse Micro)

The MM6108 and MM6104 RF interface provides the option to use on-chip amplification for typical low-power, low-cost IoT devices, or an additional external PCB-mounted power amplifier (PA) or front-end module (FEM) for ultra-long-reach applications. The RF receiver use a high-linearity low-noise amplifier (LNA). The on-chip power management unit (PMU) supports ultra-low-power operation modes. They offer SDIO 2.0 and SPI host interface options and GPIO/UART/I2C/PWM peripheral options.

Samples of the MM6108 and MM6104 SoCs and modules, including a video camera module, as well as a Wi-Fi HaLow evaluation kit, based on Raspberry Pi, are available now.