Researchers at the University of Oxford have reached a new milestone in networking by using light fidelity (Li-Fi) to achieve bi-directional speeds of 224 gigabits per second (Gbps). To put this in perspective, 100Gbps fibre optic core networks have only become a reality in recent years and have yet to become ubiquitous.
The technology is being developed as a potential alternative to Wi-Fi, and because it uses visible light spectrum to transmit data, when coupled with a high-speed fibre internet connection, researchers believe this can offer speeds far greater than those attained by existing contemporary Wi-Fi technology (600Mbps).
What is Li-Fi?
Li-Fi is a wireless technology similar to Wi-Fi that allows data to be sent at high speeds using visible light communication (VLC). Invented by Professor Harald Haas from the University of Edinburgh, Li-Fi has several advantages over Wi-Fi.
Li-Fi allows for greater security on local networks as light cannot pass through walls, which also means there is less interference between devices. Perhaps the most significant advantage is the speed that the technology offers. Researchers have achieved speeds of224 gigabits per second in lab conditions.
“We are doing a few pilot projects within different industries where we can utilize the VLC (visible light communication) technology,” Deepak Solanki, CEO of Velmenni, told IBTimes UK. “Currently we have designed a smart lighting solution for an industrial environment where the data communication is done through light. We are also doing a pilot project with a private client where we are setting up a Li-Fi network to access the internet in their office space.”
While Li-Fi may not completely replace Wi-Fi, the technologies could be used in parallel to create more efficient networks. The success of the pilot projects could see Li-Fi technology rolled out for consumers within the next three to four years, according to Solanki, allowing people to access the internet using the light bulbs in their home.
Before mass adoption of Li-Fi can be realized, techniques need to be developed to retrofit current devices with the technology. “It is very difficult to create a whole new infrastructure for Li-Fi so somehow we need integrate our system with the current system,” Solanki said.
The inventor of Li-Fi, Professor Harald Haas from the University of Edinburgh, has previously claimed that in the future every LED lightbulb could be used as an ultra-fast alternative to Wi-Fi. In a TED talk describing the technology, Haas said that current infrastructure was suitable for the integration of Li-Fi.
“All we need to do is fit a small microchip to every potential illumination device and this would then combine two basic functionalities: illumination and wireless data transmission,” Haas said. “In the future we will not only have 14 billion light bulbs, we may have 1, billion Li-Fis deployed worldwide for a cleaner, greener and even brighter future.”