Telefónica’s O2 sees the light in trial of LiFi for high-speed data
Telefónica’s O2 UK has followed Orange in trying out light to transmit mobile data at high speed.
UK-based company pureLiFi announced two weeks ago that LiFi – light transmission of data – was among the innovations Orange is showing off at the Tour de France. Now Telefónica has jumped in and said it is trying LiFi at the Slough headquarters of O2 UK.
Alistair Banham, CEO of pureLiFi, said: “LiFi is capable of unlocking unprecedented and much-needed data and bandwidth, and we are delighted that O2 has chosen to partner with pureLiFi to explore this tremendous potential.”
LiFi – which is expected to become standard 802.11bb – is a category of optical wireless communications, which normally includes infra-red and ultra-violet communications as well as visible light. However, LiFi borrows the light energy for illumination to use it for communication.
pureLiFi uses LED lightbulbs to send large amounts of data, while appearing as white light to the human eye.
Derek McManus, COO of O2 UK, said: “Our LiFi trial shows how you can deliver high-speed connectivity to customers in new ways and is another example of how we’re future-proofing our network as we pave the way for 5G in the UK.”
The term LiFi was coined in 2011 by pureLiFi’s CSO, Professor Harald Haas. The IEEE this year set up the 802.11bb task force to develop and ratify the global standard for LiFi.
pureLiFi says that a number of trials are going on around the world, including Orange at the Tour de France and around two dozen others across Europe.
At the Slough trial, the LED lights appear as white light to the human eye. The company has installed pureLiFi’s LiFi-XC system, comprising nine LiFi-enabled LED light bulbs, at the O2 head office.
The system enables data to be transmitted from a LED light bulb and back at high speeds through adjustments in the bulb’s brightness. The result is a high-speed, bi-directional and fully networked wireless communication of data.
LiFi uses multiple light bulbs to form a wireless network, offering a substantially similar user experience to WiFi except using the light spectrum.
According to pureLiFi, the light-based system has the potential to serve as a serious contender to WiFi, which uses radio frequencies. Its reliance on the visible light spectrum aims to enable safer, more reliable and more secure wireless data communication than WiFi. It also has the potential to reduce infrastructure complexity and energy consumption, said the company.
“With the proliferation of internet-of-things devices and continued growth in mobile users, the demand for spectrum is under increasing pressure,” said Banham. “O2 is at the forefront of championing technologies to provide real solutions for 5G and beyond, and we look forward to working with them towards our common goal.”