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Mini-PCIe card showcases 900MHz HaLow wireless tech

Sep 23, 2021 — by Eric Brown 685 views

[Updated: Sep. 23] — Gateworks announced a “GW16146” mini-PCIe card for its Arm/Linux SBCs with 900MHz HaLow (802.11ah) wireless tech, which has up to 4Mbps bandwidth, Bluetooth-like power consumption, and a 1km+ range.

The IEEE 802.11ah LPWAN spec for Sub-1GHz IoT, which the Wi-Fi Alliance dubs Wi-Fi HaLow, has been around for a few years but without much adoption. Now Gateworks is giving the campus-wide wireless tech a boost with its GW16146 mini-PCIe card.

The GW16146 has been tested on its i.MX8M Mini based Venice and OcteonTX powered Newport SBCs, but might possibly work on some other Arm/Linux SBCs. The GW16146 follows other Gateworks mini-PCIe cards including its Sub-1GHz GW16122 IoT Radio.



GW16146 (left) and WiFi Alliance’s infographic showing different WiFi types
(click images to enlarge)

The GW16146 is equipped with Silex’s new SX-NEWAH module, which is dubbed as the “industry’s first 802.11ah Wi-Fi solution for IoT devices.” The SX-NEWAH is in turn built around a Newracom NRC7292 SoC, which was announced yesterday. Newracom is supporting the SoC with an MCU-based NRC7292 EVK.

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The GW16146 incorporates a FT232H MPSSE USB to SPI bridge and supplies +23dBm transmit power. The card integrates a MHF-1/u.FL antenna connector that supports variety of external antenna choices. The 3.3V GW16146 has a -40 to 85°C operating range.

 
802.11ah HaLow background

Gateworks touts HaLow (802.11ah) for its low power and long-range wireless communications over the unlicensed 900MHz band. HaLow does not match the range of LoRa and SigFox, but offers a longer, 1Km+ range than “conventional” WiFi, with better penetration of walls and foliage. HaLow has a much longer range than Bluetooth or most 802.15.4 (ZigBee, Thread, etc.) standards, while almost matching their greater power efficiency.



Gateworks’ comparison of HaLow with other wireless technologies
(click image to enlarge)

The Gateworks diagram shown above indicates that HaLow comes close to “conventional” WiFi when it comes to transmit and receive efficiency. The GW16146 offers up to 4Mbps throughput and can support 100+ clients.

The 802.11ah standard is also touted for its familiar WiFi IP software interface. Gateworks offers Linux drivers for the USB/SPI bridge and the NRC7292 radio chip, which are integrated into pre-built images for Ubuntu 20.04 on Venice and Newport SBCs.



GW16146 block diagram (left) and Newracom’s HaLow infographic
(click images to enlarge)

Note that the blog post reproduces a Newracom infographic that has different and generally higher specs than those listed by Gateworks. This may be due in part to mini-PCIe and USB 2.0 limitations posed by the GW16146. Also: The CNXSoft post that alerted us to the GW16146 questions the comparison chart’s low power efficiency claims for standard WiFi relative to LoRa and SigFox.

[Update: LinuxGizmos reader Ken Bannister asks if HaLow is, as Gateworks, suggests, “much longer” range than Sub-1GHz 802.15.4 variants. According to this 2019 IEEE paper from the University of Pisa, the 802.15.4g variant for metropolitan networks ranges from 200 meters in cities to 800m in rural areas. So the answer would appear to be that HaLow is not “much” longer range than 802.15.4g, but is indeed longer range. We added a “most” to the range claim above. The problem with such comparison charts, although useful for us to sort out multiple wireless technologies across various factors, is that there are different variants of many wireless standards, including 802.15.4, Bluetooth, WiFi, which led Gateworks to use the word “conventional” WiFi (even if that, too, is somewhat ambiguous).]

 
Further information

No pricing or availability information was provided for the GW16146. More information may be found on Gateworks’ blog announcement and product page, as well as this wiki.
 

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