Can Li-Fi replace Wi-Fi? Researchers shine fresh light on the subject

17 Feb 2015

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Using light to transmit data at speeds of up to 100Gbs may one day be possible, with research into the subject starting to take off.

Oxford University researchers are looking into taking the light that travels through our fibre cables, amplifying it and beaming it across rooms.

The maximum speeds of 100Gbs are quite eye-catching and nowhere near plausible just yet, but Ariel Gomez, who led the report, feels the potential rates of three terabits per second and up should not be ignored.

“If you’re in the optical window, you have virtually unlimited bandwidth and unlicensed spectrum,” Gomez says.

Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth

Bandwidth is big business in our data-hungry world right now, but how can we harness the light in our rooms to transport data from here to there?

Gomez and his team placed hubs in rooms to send data to and from each other, utilising a “holographic beam steering” at the transmitter and receiver ends. Acting like a prism, the steerers can bend the wavelengths as is needed.

For example with a 60° field of view, six different wavelengths each transmitted data at 37.4 Gbs, for an aggregate bandwidth of 224 Gbs. With a 36° field of view, they managed only three channels, for 112 Gbs.

Indeed direct lines of light are immediate restrictions, with it eliminating any multi-room connections, in theory.

The next stage of the research is to implement some form of tracking mechanism so you devices can hook themselves up to the transmissions themseves, but for a starting point it’s pretty cool.

Light beaming image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt is senior communications and context executive at NDRC. He previously worked as a journalist with Silicon Republic.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com