LiFi: How LEDs can give you internet speeds 100x faster than WiFi

February 7, 2018

modern network concept with laptop keyboard.

The company VLNComm introduced a LiFi LED light at the 2018 CES conference in Las Vegas. This light, called the LumiNex panel, is capable of 108Mbps download speeds and 53Mbps upload speeds. The light offers coverage of 516 square feet and includes support for 15 users simultaneously.


So it seems LiFi is here. But what is it exactly and why should you care?


LiFi is a communications system capable of transmitting high-speed data over the visible light spectrum, as well as through ultraviolet light and infrared radiation. Although LiFi offers a similar wireless internet experience as WiFi, the difference is that LiFi uses light to broadcast information, while WiFi uses radio frequencies.


Using light as opposed to radio offers some unique advantages. First, WiFi can cause problems in areas where electromagnetic signals can interfere with important tasks (hospitals, airplanes, etc.). Second, unlike radio frequency waves, light cannot penetrate walls, making LiFi more secure and easier to control who can connect to the network. Third, because any LED light can be used for LiFi, the system can connect many more users to the internet without compromising upload or download speeds.


How it works

LEDs, like all light sources, release packets of energy called photons. If you apply a constant current to an LED, it produces a steady stream of light. If you vary the input current slightly, the intensity of the light output also varies, and you can use this method to send signals. Because LEDs are semiconductor devices, the current and light output can be modulated at very high speeds, which is then detected by a photodetector device that converts it back to electric current. Currently, in order for a laptop to use LiFi it needs a special USB stick, which is about the size of two side-by-side thumb drives. Even though you can send massive amounts of information in this manner, the variations in light are so small the human eye cannot detect them, so your visible light appears to remain steady.


LiFi is faster than WiFi because the visible light spectrum is almost 10,000 times larger than the spectrum occupied by radio waves, giving LiFi a broader band to work with. A LiFi connection can transmit data at the rate of 224 gigabytes per second.


This technology is obviously still new, but it’s very exciting and something to keep your eye on. Faster, more secure internet that won’t slow down no matter how many users: LiFi is the future of wireless communications.


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