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Will light fuel the data and bandwidth of the future?

O2 is experimenting with Li-Fi and investigating how light might fuel tomorrow’s data-driven world

Imagine a world where every LED lightbulb could connect you to the internet. The same smart lighting that already lights up our homes, offices and streets could soon deliver our growing demand for connectivity and provide high speed, secure, mobile wireless communications.

You don’t have to imagine it because the technology already exists and O2 has installed it for trialing and testing in our Explore Room at our headquarters in Slough. It’s called Li-Fi, cutting edge wireless technology that turns LED lights into high speed and secure wireless access points.

The way we connect is evolving and the number of users and devices that need to be connected will soon overtake the current spectrum’s ability to connect them. There are expected to be 20 billion IoT devices by the year 2020, and according to Bell Labs, traffic growth will result in as much as 31% of data demand going unmet by existing networks by then.

Li-Fi could provide part of the solution to meeting this increase in demand. Without relying on the radio frequencies used by existing Wi-Fi and cellular networks, Li-Fi can offer extremely fast, low latency speeds, and also deliver 1,000 times more data for every square metre of space. At O2, we are looking to the future and investigating whether Li-Fi might soon deliver bandwidth and data access to our customers as a part of 5G and beyond.

Li-fi could possibly deliver data speeds of as much as eight gigabits per second (8Gbps), which is around about 400 times faster than the current average speed of a typical broadband connection. But there is more to Li-Fi than just speed. Over the coming months we will be exploring and trialling many of the other potential benefits of the technology, including:

  1. Security: Light can’t travel through walls so a Li-Fi signal can be secured in a physical space, making the technology much more secure than existing radio frequency technology such as Wi-Fi. Data can also be directed from one light source to another, so users can literally see where data is going. Lifi uses existing Wi-Fi security standards like 802.1x, enabling the EAP Framework and will get WPA3 same as Wi-Fi
  2. No Interference: Wi-Fi is vulnerable to interference from a wide range of sources like cordless phones, microwaves and neighbouring Wi-Fi networks. Li-Fi signals can be defined by the area of illumination, so interference is much simpler to avoid or even stop altogether. Is an Excellent replacement for Wi-Fi where traditional RF is problematic, hospitals, schools, airplanes, heavy industry, military etc.
  3. Data Density: Li-Fi can achieve approximately 1000 times the data density of Wi-Fi offering more data per square metre.
  4. Location Services: Li-Fi systems are fully networked, and each Li-Fi enabled light has it a unique IP address which means advanced geofencing can be deployed simply in a Li-Fi network.
  5. Efficiency: LED lights are already recognised for their efficiency, and Li-Fi gives them another purpose, connectivity.
  6. Smart Lighting: The smart street lamps and other public lighting of the future will not only provide light, they could be used to provide Li-Fi hotspots as well.
  7. Indoor and hard-to-reach spaces: Li-Fi may be able to deliver 5G speeds in locations that have traditionally proved difficult, such as train tunnels or indoor locations without good mobile coverage.
  8. Relieving the burden of existing wi-fi networks. Li-Fi connections could provide connectivity for professional applications such as medical and healthcare devices, without relying on existing networks or potentially hazardous cabling.

Li-Fi may still be in its infancy but it’s a technology that is maturing fast. Before long it could transform wireless communications and data management in our businesses and homes. That’s why O2 has been working with pureLi-Fi, a company established by the inventors of the technology itself, to install Li-Fi technology in the O2 Explore Room at our headquarters in Slough.

Over the coming months we will assess Li-Fi’s potential to deliver fast, secure bandwidth and data and consider how it might form a component of O2’s future 5G solution.

Why not visit the O2 Explore Room in Slough and see Li-Fi in action for yourself? To make an appointment, contact us today.

Alternatively you can find out more about Li-Fi technology by clicking here.

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