Technology Infrared may no longer be a punch line as...

Infrared may no longer be a punch line as IEEE approves 9.6 Gbps wireless light


We’ve known for over a decade that flashing light bulbs can ring substantial amounts of wireless data, not just stupid infrared commands to your TV. Now, the IEEE standards organization behind Wi-Fi has decided to formally invite “Li-Fi” to the same table – with speeds between 10 megabits per second and 9.6 gigabits per second using invisible infrared light.

As of June 2023, the IEEE 802.11 wireless standard is now officially recognized wireless light communications as a physical layer for wireless local area networks, which is a fancy way of saying that Li-Fi doesn’t have to compete with Wi-Fi. Light can just be another kind of access point and interface that delivers the same networks and/or internet to your device.

In fact, at least one IEEE member has experimented with networks using Wi-Fi and Li-Fi at the same time to overcome each other’s disadvantages, intelligently steering some office computers to Li-Fi versus Wi-Fi to improve the entire network.

(The first experiment used just four headless Intel NUC computers, it seems, but saw a “collision probability drop” from 19 percent to 10 percent.)
Image: CableLabs/IEEE

See, Li-Fi products aren’t actually new: companies have been trying to sell them for a number of years. There is even already a competing standard, the G.9991 of the International Telecommunication Union, which is used, among other things, in data-emitting lamps from Philips Hue maker Signify.

These companies have counted on light to provide a fast, private, direct line-of-sight connection without radio interference — amid concerns that lighting conditions can vary drastically and it’s all too easy to accidentally cut a line of light. sight connection. My colleague Jake illustrated the pros and cons when he tried a Li-Fi bulb in 2018.

In its experiment description, CableLabs does not deny that Light Communication (LC) can be improved. “LC range is very sensitive to irradiance and angles of incidence, making dynamic beam steering (and LoS availability) attractive for future LC evolution,” reads one line in the study.

“Enterprise Wi-Fi and state-of-the-art LC performance are comparable, but LC reliability needs to be improved. One possible approach is to use multiple, distributed optical front ends,” reads another.

“Reliability needs to be improved”

The reason why we are hearing this now is not because the IEEE made such a big deal out of it – it’s because the company that hired the man who came up with “Li-Fi”, Dr. Harald Haas, really wants to take this opportunity to sell his latest product, and task force member Fraunhofer wants recognition for his contribution.

PureLiFi has just launched the Light Antenna One in February, a small enough module could theoretically be integrated into smartphones, which it claims can already deliver more than 1 Gbps, depending on the use case. (It’s only rated to communicate with devices less than 10 feet away, and it has a 24-degree field of view when returning.) PureLiFi says it’s already compliant with the 802.11bb standard and ready to begin mass integration of to enable Li-Fi. For the first time.”

PureLiFi’s brochure for the Light Antenna One.
Image: PureLiFi

Shreya Christina
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