New 'LiFi' Gets 8 Gigabit Speed; Faster than WiFi, 5G

John Lister's picture

Light could be the key to solving one of the big problems of faster mobile Internet. But the technology, which uses spotlights to send out signals, has some limited range of uses.

The technology developed by pureLiFi works on a simple principle: rather than using radio waves to transmit data (as does WiFi), it uses light waves.

A demo of the system uses ceiling spotlights which blast out light in a cone shape. To the human eye it looks like an ordinary constant light supply. In fact it's actually flickering at incredibly high speeds to create a pattern.

5G Signals Hurt By Walls

A plug-in 'dongle' for computers has a light receiver which analyses the pattern and turns it back into computer data. The signal can reportedly offer speeds reaching eight gigabits per second, hundreds of times faster than most wired connections can handle.

The technology was developed to explore ways to get round a problem with the next generation of mobile Internet, known as 5G. The problem is that although the frequencies used for 5G allow far faster data speeds than existing mobile Internet, they are on short wavelengths that make it harder for the signal to get through walls. That could make the signal less reliable indoors.

The "LiFi" probably isn't an ideal solution for home use, particularly with mobile Internet rather than a wired broadband connection. It might be an option for rooms that are too far away from a wireless router, but likely wouldn't be a cheaper or more practical alternative to existing workarounds such as wireless repeaters and extenders, or using power lines to carry a signal.

Trains, Planes And... Hospitals

However, the LiFi technology could be useful in specific circumstances. One suggestion is that trains which currently offer WiFi connections could get a signal from overhead lights while passing through tunnels. Another is to use it in places which need a reliable signal without interference and where cabling can be unwieldy, such as in medical facilities or data centers. (Source:

The technology is already in development for use in in-flight WiFi, the idea being that each user could get a secure connection without the problems of interference that come from beaming radio signals around a cabin. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Could you see this technology catching on in the home or is it too impractical? Can you think of any other situations where it might be useful? Does it matter that this would probably only work for receiving a signal and that you'd need a traditional wired or wireless connection for sending data?

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DavidInMississippi's picture

If they can make an internet connection with light pulses, just imagine what they could do with LASER pulses.

At first envisioning, I can see any fixed or semi-fixed position device having an automated swiveling laser transceiver, that would take less than a second to connect to a similar swiveling transceiver in the ceiling or on a wall. Data transfer could be hundreds of times faster than LiFi, and because of the contained nature of laser beams, there would be little or no overspill that could be intercepted by the person sitting next to you.

This would be a bigger problem to overcome with mobile devices, but never underestimate the power of human ingenuity.

plamonica_3840's picture

We have been watching this for a long time now but have yet to see it go anywhere.The implications are huge for security alone. I can't wait to get my hands on one so I can start testing.