It’s no surprise to anyone that when people are asked to stay indoors and keep a safe distance from each other we turn to technology to connect us, whether through general chat, email, or even video conferencing. However, we all wait in anticipation to see how the technology and networks that connect us will scale to meet the demand. Particularly, as more and more people each day stay indoors and switch to life online for the foreseeable future.

About the author

Alistair Banham, CEO, pureLiFi

Early on in our struggles with COVID-19 and social distancing we’ve seen an overwhelming burst of creativity and generosity of content online, such as free museum tours, online choirs and online playgroups.

So far, despite the increase in demand, we all seem to be connecting, with maybe the odd dropped video conference call. This hasn’t been by chance. There are plenty of examples where industry and government are being proactive to keep us entertained and in attendance at our daily office catch-ups. Netflix, Facebook, YouTube and Amazon have all committed to limiting video streaming quality through this period of high demand. The EU has even relaxed laws to allow for data throttling in the short term.

Many of these measures are only short-term solutions, as we hope self-isolation and social distancing will be as well. However, many of these new and creative ways of working, sharing and connecting are expected to outlast this current challenging environment.

Therefore, looking to the future, what are some of the ways that light can help us increase the data pipe and help us expand our wireless capabilities? In reality, the ways in which light can enhance wireless communications are only limited by our imagination as light can provide faster more reliable communication anywhere there is light. However, there are few specific ways light communications can help get more data to your home and your device.

Light can widen the pipe at the “last mile”

The “last mile” of connection is the most challenging for broadband providers and is often seen as the bottleneck in providing faster internet speeds for the home and office. Taking advantage of other technologies such as 5G are seen as the next solution to help improve reliable “last mile” communications. Ovum issued a report in 2018 claiming that large-scale 5G deployments would support reliable average speeds of 80–100Mbps to the home.

This is a great start; however, light can provide ultra-high-speed dedicated links with 1000 times the bandwidth of traditional RF such as 4G and 5G. Light can also do this without interfering with other RF networks and without using up precious spectrum resources. This all makes light an ideal technology for complimenting existing technologies and widening the data pipe. 

An early example of this type of deployment can be seen in a recent 5G Rural First project with the LiFi Research and Development Centre in collaboration with pureLiFi. The project saw the deployment of a Light Communications backhaul mounted on a lighthouse that provided broadband to homes on Grimsay island that then connected to an in-home LiFi network. The installation not only improved the broadband experience for these users it provided high speed internet in a particularly a hard to reach area of Scotland.

LiFi will make Wi-Fi better

If you haven’t yet experienced an overloaded home Wi-Fi network, just speak to one of the millions of families that are experiencing this now. Streaming home entertainment in the living room, and online gaming in the bedroom, while somebody hosts a video conference in their home office, is likely to be causing trouble for many Wi-Fi networks. While many people are quickly looking for ways to improve their Wi-Fi this is an area where LiFi can help in the future. 

In 2018 pureLiFi demonstrated in a Scottish school how LiFi can make Wi-Fi networks more reliable—not just in schools but in homes and offices, too. pureLiFi deployed a LiFi network in a classroom that regularly streamed high bandwidth educational videos. By offloading bandwidth-heavy content to the LiFi network, the neighboring classrooms benefited from more reliable WiFi connections and therefore better user experiences. LiFi in our homes will have the same benefits. By using Gigabit LiFi-enabled devices and lights in high bandwidth areas of our homes, we will stream higher resolution videos and games while also enabling more reliable Wi-Fi network for everything else we need to do online.

Is LiFi Ready?

Light communications technologies such as LiFi will enhance and augment, not replace, traditional RF technologies like cellular and Wi-Fi technologies to supercharge the next generation of wireless connectivity. 

While LiFi isn’t in every device and every light today, pureLiFi now has Light Antenna components that are ready to be designed into your next mobile device. pureLiFi is currently working with some of the largest device manufacturers and lighting suppliers to get this technology into the hands of the consumer. With LiFi, we will all be ready for the fast-changing connectivity landscape.

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