Li-Fi revolution: internet connections using light bulbs are 250 times faster than broadband

The next generation of wireless internet could use converted LED lightbulbs to transmit data faster and more cheaply than traditional Wi-Fi signals

Li-Fi, an alternative to Wi-Fi that transmits data using the spectrum of visible light, has achieved a new breakthrough, with UK scientists reporting transmission speeds of 10Gbit/s – more than 250 times faster than ‘superfast’ broadband.

The fastest speed previously reported was 3Gbit/s, achieved earlier this year by the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute in Germany. Chinese researchers also claimed this month to have produced a 150Mbp/s connection, but some experts were doubtful without seeing further proof.

The term Li-Fi was coined by Edinburgh University's Prof Harald Haas during a TED talk in 2011 (see below for video) though the technology is also known as visible light communications (VLC).

Many experts claim that Li-Fi represents the future of mobile internet thanks to its reduced costs and greater efficiency compared to traditional Wi-Fi.

Both Wi-Fi and Li-Fi transmit data over the electromagnetic spectrum, but whereas Wi-Fi utilises radio waves, Li-Fi uses visible light. This is a distinct advantage in that the visible light is far more plentiful than the radio spectrum (10,000 times more in fact) and can achieve far greater data density.

Li-Fi signals work by switching bulbs on and off incredibly quickly – too quickly to be noticed by the human eye. This most recent breakthrough builds upon this by using tiny micro-LED bulbs to stream several lines of data in parallel.

The research was carried out by the Ultra Parallel Visible Light Communications project, a joint venture between the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Strathclyde, and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Existing LED light bulbs could be converted to transmit Li-Fi signals with a single microchip, and the technology would also be of use in situations where radio frequencies cannot be used for fear of interfering with electronic circuitry.

And although Li-Fi bulbs would have to be kept on to transmit data, the bulbs could be dimmed to the point that they were not visible to humans and yet still functional. One draw-back is that the data receiver would have to be in sight of the transmitter-bulb as visible light does not penetrate solid materials.

The makers of Li-Fi note that this quality might actually be an advantage in some scenarios, making Li-Fi more secure than Wi-Fi with hackers unable to access unsecured internet connections from out of sight of the transmitter.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee