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What is LiFi?

What is Li-Fi?

As you would guess from the name, LiFi is a version of wireless data transfer that enables broadband internet connection, like WiFi. The difference is that LiFi uses light to send data and not the radio spectrum. It’s been made feasible by the capacity of LEDs to be modulated more rapidly than the human eye can perceive to send data. No-one is entirely sure yet if LiFi will rival WiFi or merely be a complementary technology with specialised applications, but it certainly works and is already being developed commercially.

Staggering speed

Its main advantage is speed. At its best in experiments it can deliver a staggering 224 gigabits per second, although trials in office environments show that it actually transmits data at a more sedate 1 gigabit per second. That slower speed is still 100 times faster than average WiFi speeds, so it’s extremely fast. But it has a couple of distinct disadvantages. It has a shorter range than Wifi and can’t go through solid objects.


In some circumstances these apparent deficiencies could be strengths. High security environments such as banks and intelligence agencies would appreciate the extra security of a fully confined network. Hospitals would also find a closed system useful and appreciate the bonus of no risk of interference with sensitive electronics. Because radio signals do not travel well under the sea, underwater is one place LiFi completely owns. You see what I mean by specialised applications.

Not so crowded

The other attraction of LiFi, apart from its speed, is that it adds a huge amount of spectrum to the available bandwidth, which can get crowded. For instance, the extra information galleries and museums like to offer for viewing on mobile devices can potentially be accessed by many more people at once.


The linchpin of this cutting-edge technology is the humble LED. Future houses may use LiFi to create an unhackable automated system where the lights control all the other devices. But LiFi’s final advantage may be that you can just turn it off and be sure that the kids will have to go to sleep in their beds.

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