802.15.4 IEEE 802.15.4 Low-Rate Wireless Personal Area Networks

IEEE 802.15.4 is a technical standard which defines the operation of low-rate wireless personal area networks (LR-WPANs). It specifies the physical layer and media access control for LR-WPANs, and is maintained by the IEEE 802.15 working group, which defined the standard in 2003.


  • Data rates of 250 kbps, 40 kbps, and 20 kbps.
  • Two addressing modes; 16-bit short and 64-bit IEEE addressing.
  • Support for critical latency devices, such as joysticks.
  • CSMA-CA channel access.
  • Automatic network establishment by the coordinator.
  • Fully handshaked protocol for transfer reliability.
  • Power management to ensure low power consumption.
  • 16 channels in the 2.4GHz ISM band, 10 channels in the 915MHz I and one channel in the 868MHz band.

IEEE standard 802.15.4 intends to offer the fundamental lower network layers of a type of wireless personal area network (WPAN) which focuses on low-cost, low-speed ubiquitous communication between devices. It can be contrasted with other approaches, such as Wi-Fi, which offer more bandwidth and require more power. The emphasis is on very low cost communication of nearby devices with little to no underlying infrastructure, intending to exploit this to lower power consumption even more.

The basic framework conceives a 10-meter communications range with a transfer rate of 250 kbit/s. Tradeoffs are possible to favor more radically embedded devices with even lower power requirements, through the definition of not one, but several physical layers. Lower transfer rates of 20 and 40 kbit/s were initially defined, with the 100 kbit/s rate being added in the current revision.

Even lower rates can be considered with the resulting effect on power consumption. As already mentioned, the main identifying feature of IEEE 802.15.4 among WPANs is the importance of achieving extremely low manufacturing and operation costs and technological simplicity, without sacrificing flexibility or generality.

Important features include real-time suitability by reservation of guaranteed time slots, collision avoidance through CSMA/CA and integrated support for secure communications. Devices also include power management functions such as link quality and energy detection. Read more