First commercial tests of Li-Fi wireless networking hit 1 Gbps

A new wireless networking technology is now being used in trials in offices and industrial environments in Tallinn, Estonia, with speeds up to 1 Gbps have been reached.

The system, dubbed Li-fi as it uses light rather than radio to transmit signals, has two massive claimed advantages over Wi-Fi: speed and security. It’s more secure, since light beams can be directed at target devices more specifically and cannot leak out through walls. The focusing of light also leads to less interference between broadcasting nodes, one of the contributing factors, along with the speed of photon travel, which makes Li-Fi potentially 100 times faster than today’s Wi-Fi.

The technology, invented by Professor Harald Haas at Edinburgh University in 2011, was showcased at UK tech start up show Innovate in November 2013, but it is now moving closer to commercial development. In lab tests at Oxford University speeds of 224 Gbps had previously been achieved but the commercial ceiling demonstrated by Estonian startup technology company Velmenni have been considerably lower.

According to Haas the system could be set up using standard LED lightbulbs, since the light emitting diodes are suited to being varied on and off at ultra-high frequencies without damaging them. The Li-Fi technology uses visible light between 400 and 800 terahertz (THz), and transmits messages through binary code, making it fast enough to download 18 movies of 1.5 GB each second. The variations are too frequent to affect the human eye.

With some modification the current networking infrastructure could accommodate Li-Fi, according to Haas. LED lights on an electronic circuit could be networked with the fitting of a microchip, so the lights provide both illumination and wireless data transmission, Haas said. Normal domestic lights are unable to cope with the variation needed. Li-Fi would work alongside Wi-Fi rather than be a replacement, he said.

“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,” Deepak Solanki, CEO of Velmenni told IBTimes. “It is very difficult to create a whole new infrastructure for Li-Fi so somehow we need integrate our system with the current system.”

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