When we connect to the internet, we use radio frequencies such as Wi-Fi. But, in recent years, the space for radio frequencies has become oversaturated because the number of Internet users is growing at an unprecedented rate. In the past year alone, 257 million people have set up an internet connection – that’s over 700,000 new users each day. Every year, wireless data consumption grows by 60% and, after the “2020 effect”, which encouraged digital transformation, that percentage is expected to grow even more.
However, the radio spectrum is limited and can’t sustain this ever-growing demand for data. Experts have been talking about the “spectrum crunch” since the turn of the century and, based on the growing number of consumer devices and Internet usage trends, it’s closer than ever:
- 63.2% of the total world population uses the internet.
- The US alone generates over 3 billion GB of Internet traffic per minute.
- In 2021, people sent 306 billion emails per day.
- 80% of indoor wireless consumption is video.
- Between 2017 and 2019, internal bandwidth used by global networks doubled.
Wi-Fi technology can barely keep up with this demand.
So, what alternative do we have?
The answer could come from Li-Fi – a revolutionary technology introduced in 2011 that can transmit data at high speeds over visible light, ultraviolet light, and infrared spectrums. By opening up to 1,000 times more spectrum than radio frequencies, Li-Fi technology could change the way we connect to the internet and solve the problem of limited bandwidth.
Statistics show that Li-Fi is one of the most disruptive technologies, and forecasts are overwhelmingly positive. In 2020, the global LiFi market was valued at USD$295.4 million, and by 2026, it’s expected to reach USD$4.1 billion, growing at a CAGR of 69.7%. Li-Fi can impact many industries, but the highest adoption rate is expected in the IoT sector.
How does Li-Fi work?
Li-Fi is a wireless communication technology. That means that, at its core, Li-Fi technology is similar to Wi-Fi. The difference is that Wi-Fi uses radiofrequency waves to transmit data, while Li-Fi uses the modulation of light intensity. Light has a much bigger bandwidth, which is why Li-Fi is theoretically faster than Wi-Fi. In data transmission tests, Li-Fi has reached whopping speeds of up to 224 Gbps – that’s 1000x faster than Wi-Fi. To achieve this, Li-Fi systems only require a strong lighting source, such as LED bulbs.
To simplify things, instead of connecting to an Internet router, you could connect to the Internet through the lights around you. That includes the lights in your home, but also outdoor lights, such as streetlights and even car lights. It may sound futuristic, but the technology is already here. Li-Fi products such as Li-FiMAX are already available – these are easy to use, plug-and-play systems that can be placed on the ceiling of any room, and they can provide super-fast and stable Internet connection to up to 16 users.
What are the benefits of Li-Fi?
Thanks to the way it transmits data over light, Li-Fi offers several key advantages:
This is by a landslide the main selling point of Li-Fi products. We all need high-speed Internet. For work, for streaming, having video conferences with friends, and much more. In data transmission tests, Li-Fi reached speeds of up to 224 Gbps, which is 1,000 times faster than Wi-Fi. Of course, these test results are harder to obtain in real-world conditions, but even with limitations, Li-Fi is still faster. If Li-Fi reaches 1% of lab tests in the real world, that’s still 2.24 Gbps, while average Wi-Fi transfer speeds are somewhere around 20 Mbps. In industries like finance, education, healthcare, streaming, and telecom, this increase in speed could be life-changing, leading to better user experience and increased productivity.
As a new technology, Li-Fi may sound intimidating, but the reality is that it’s quite accessible. Li-Fi doesn’t require a complicated infrastructure. It only needs LED lighting systems, which are already growing in popularity. The LED lights market size is expected to reach $92 billion by 2022, thanks to benefits such as long lifespan, energy efficiency, and high environmental performance. So, if you already use LED lights in your home or office, you can install Li-Fi systems. Besides, unlike radio frequencies, which are susceptible to electromagnetic interference, Li-Fi can be used in places such as hospitals, aircraft, and military bases.
A new, disruptive technology doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive. Many people who have heard about how Li-Fi works loved the concept but assumed that it would cost too much to install. In reality, Li-Fi is surprisingly affordable. Li-Fi systems need LED lights, which are cheap to manufacture and already offer cost-saving benefits. Plus, with a one-time investment, you also save money on energy costs. Experts predict that, as adoption rates grow, Li-Fi could cost ten times less than Wi-Fi.
We live in an increasingly digital world, and this comes with many risks, one of the most notable being cybercrime. Radio frequencies are susceptible to brute force attacks and signal hijacking, so everything we do online can be accessed by malicious third parties. Last year, there were over 1,100 data breaches. This is bad news for businesses, which can end up spending millions of dollars on mitigating the damage or go bankrupt in the process. It’s also bad news for personal users, who can have sensitive data such as social security numbers and credit card numbers stolen. With Li-Fi, this risk doesn’t exist. Light cannot penetrate opaque surfaces, so the signals emitted by Li-Fi stay within the room, and the data can’t be accessed by other people.
Like all technologies, Li-Fi also has its downsides: it has a smaller range than Wi-Fi, and it does require an extended infrastructure if we are to implement it at a large scale. However, Li-Fi is definitely one of the most promising technologies developed in recent years, and it offers a smart solution to the spectrum crunch.