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China begins to manufacture LiFi kits: 150Mbps broadband speeds over LED bulbs

Sample LiFi, light-based WiFi, kits have rolled off of production lines in China, promising speeds of up to 150Mbps. 

Produced for the China International Industry Fair that’s due to take place on November 5, this follows publication of results of LiFi tests carried out at Shanghai’s Fudan University. 

A one watt LED bulb has provided four computers with an 150Mbps internet connection over LiFi. 

As well as delivering speeds in excess of the 3Mbps average available in China, it’s hoped that the breakthrough will enable a rapid rollout of faster broadband. 

China begins to manufacture LiFi kits: 150Mbps broadband speeds over LED bulbs
LED bulbs similar to this one could light up our lives with faster broadband speeds

Chinese buyers are already replacing the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs with LED ones. Professor Harald Haas, who coined the term LiFi, expects that standard LED bulbs can be retrofitted and turned into access points on a home broadband network. 

Speaking to Xinhua professor Chi Nan says that the technology is more energy efficient than WiFi and mobile broadband: 

“As for cell phones, millions of base stations have been established around the world to strengthen the signal but most of the energy is consumed on their cooling systems. The energy utilization rate [for LiFi] is only 5 percent.” 

A current problem with LiFi is that if the light in the room is switched off or beams are blocked, there’s no signal. LiFi modules such as those developed by Commulight could easily be fitted into devices like phones and tablets, but they’d require direct line of sight to a LiFi access point. For this reason its likely that LiFi technology will complement WiFi rather than totally replace it. 

This is a problem which will need to be circumvented as in domestic situations nobody will have their lights on 24 hours a day, but they will want a constant internet connection. 

Experiments in Taiwan have shown that LiFi can provide speeds of up to 500Mbps so there’s scope for speeds to be even faster. In the future we could well end up shopping for bulbs based on their data rates as well as their wattage. 

Image: Guilherme Torelly/Flickr

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