Internet connection through light is a relatively new area. LiFi, the term for this solution, was coined only in 2011. Since then, new devices that allow light communications have made it possible for companies – and even the US Army – to adopt the technology.
While the world witnesses the dawn of LiFi, Professor Harald Haas, co-founder of pureLiFi, believes it will go hand in hand with 6G.
Haas should know a few things about the new technology. He was the one who created the term “LiFi” and has ever since put efforts into making it a reality.
“WiFi, 5G and 4G use the radio spectrum. However, the radio is very limited, sparse and expensive, and needs to be allocated in every generation of cellular standards,” Haas explained in an interview with 6GWorld at MWC23. “The light spectrum is 3,000 times larger than the entire radio spectrum, is free and available everywhere.”
The idea, however, is not to replace cellular technology but rather to increase its power, especially because visible light can be found everywhere.
“If you look around, you’ll see lots of light sources. All of them could be a high-speed transmitter of gigabit data connectivity in homes, in streets, essentially everywhere,” Haas said. “We are modulating high-speed data on a light carrier, which could be infrared or visible light or UV. Any light we can think of could be used for high-speed data communications.”
One step to make the technology meet expectations is standardisation. If LiFi is to see the light of day as a massively adopted solution, it must work on different devices and in various situations.
And that is about to happen. The new devices pureLiFi showcased in Barcelona were ready for the LiFi standards that are being finalised, according to Haas, within the IEEE family. It is expected to be released by mid-2023.
“The LiFi standard will allow interoperability and seamless links between different vendors,” the professor explained. “Companies will start really integrating light antenna modules [being] shown here today into phones of the future.”
Speaking of the Future…
How can light communications tie in with 6G? Some areas where both technologies can work together include spectrum and security.
Unlike radio, light does not propagate out of a given area. That means all the data is restricted to one place.
Radio, on the other hand, can travel through walls and is often widespread, making it easier for eavesdroppers to hack signals. No wonder the US Army has adopted LiFi technology.
“You can really isolate LiFi signals from one room to another, and that provides a unique feature. And that provides physical layer security,” Haas explained.
Another contribution to 6G might be on the spectrum side of things. “Researchers are looking at new spectrum for 6G. Question: where is it? Is it in the terahertz or the sub-terahertz region? Or is it indeed optical?” the professor asked.
“When you talk about 6G, you talk about connectivity and the cyber-physical continuum. But that means a tremendous amount of data going from point A to B. And you want to do this in real-time for autonomous systems, robots, daily medicine, and others. It must offer high speed, high reliability, and low latency. And we have the light spectrum, which is 3,000 times larger than radio and is free. Why don’t we use it?”
While many questions are still yet to be answered, Haas is adamant about at least one thing. “I absolutely see LiFi and 6G working together,” he concluded.
Journalist since eight years old, when I would read the newspaper out loud and pretend it was a radio show. Based in São Paulo, I have worked for Brazilian websites as reporter and editor before joining 6GWorld