In this day and age, it's almost impossible to picture a world without an internet connection. We have come so far in terms of technological advancements that the perception of having a stable internet connection has shifted from that one of luxury to one of utmost necessity. Whether in the office or at home, we constantly rely on the internet for our day-to-day basic tasks such as research, sending and receiving mail, chatting, gaming, streaming movies and downloading files, to mention a few. More so, Governments all over the globe use the internet to administer vital services. It, therefore, goes without saying that the world would surely and inevitably grind to a halt without an internet connection.
What has changed?
Over time, however, wireless internet access has become ubiquitous, with almost everyone nowadays spotting either a smartphone, laptop or tablet, thanks to the good old Wi-Fi technology. About 70% of wireless internet usage is confined to homes and the rest left to be used in public places such as cafeterias and offices. The growing demand has significantly contributed to network congestion, leading to a saturation of Wi-Fi radio frequencies. Eventually, the good old and reliable Wi-Fi technology will be struggling to keep up with the growing demand for wireless internet consumption. This calls for the need of a better and seamless communication channel that will deliver better results.
In the quest for a more efficient replacement for Wi-Fi technology, a relatively new technology known as Li-Fi has come out as a better alternative. So, what is Li-Fi? Short for Light Fidelity, Li-Fi is a simple yet powerful high-speed bidirectional wireless technology that uses light for transmission of data.
Li-Fi uses the light spectrum that opens up to 1000 times more than radiofrequency. It uses what is known as Visible Light Communications (VLC) systems for transmission of data.
For Li-Fi to work, two components are necessary:
1. An LED light bulb with a signal processing unit for transmitting light signals.
2. A photodiode on the device receiving the light signals from the LED bulb
So, here's how Li-Fi technology works:
An electric current is applied to the LED light bulb casting a visible beam of light or illumination on the photodiode of the receiving device. The electrical current applied to the LED is adjusted or modulated at very extremely high frequencies unperceivable to the human eye. The light is picked up by the photodetector and converted to binary data that comprises text, audio, video and images that are rendered on any device that is connected to the internet.
Li-Fi is still in the testing phase and is yet to be fully deployed in major countries. However, it is envisioned that the LED illumination necessary for the provision of internet access can be provided by street lightning, at the office, restaurants and other public places.
How fast is Li-Fi?
According to Tests carried out by PureLIFI, an organization that was started by Professor Roland Hass, LiFI can generate over 100Gbps of internet bandwidth in a controlled environment. Moreso, some tests have even revealed that the technology can reach speeds of up to 224Gbps, which are clearly miles ahead of the traditional Wi-Fi technology, which only boasts of up to 100 Mbps. The explanation is simple: The spectrum of visible light is 1000 times more compared to that of the Radio Frequency (RF) spectrum, which only sits at roughly 300 GHz.
Will Li-Fi finally replace Wi-Fi?
While Li-Fi looks promising with blazing fast internet speeds, the technology is still in its infancy stage and research is ongoing to make it a more viable way of accessing the internet. Wi-Fi technology still reigns supreme with a broader coverage thanks to its RF mode of data transmission. Also, the Radio waves can penetrate obstacles like walls going up to a range of up to 32 meters, a feat that cannot be attained by Li-Fi.
In terms of security, Li-Fi scores highly because it is only restricted to enclosed spaces, unlike Wi-Fi, which can be prone to hacking, especially in wider areas. Li-Fi data transmission is energy efficient, given that it only relies on LED light as opposed to Wi-Fi transmission, where Wi-Fi transmitters are used for relaying RF signals.
In conclusion, a lot still needs to be put into consideration before Li-Fi can be made entirely commercial and as a viable internet connection media for a large population. Many factors need to be carefully put into consideration, such as putting up a robust yet flexible infrastructure for data transmission. Meanwhile, Wi-Fi technology is here to stay, awaiting to know its fate a few years from now.