LiFi: Light instead of radio frequencies | Promotional image

LiFi: Light instead of radio frequencies

Global LiFi technology firms Fraunhofer HHI and pureLiFi welcome the release of IEEE 802.11bb as the latest global light communications standard alongside IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi standards. The bb standard marks a significant milestone for the LiFi market, as it provides a globally recognised framework for deployment of LiFi technology.

LiFi is a wireless technology that uses light rather than radio frequencies to transmit data. By harnessing the light spectrum, LiFi can unleash faster, more reliable wireless communications with unparalleled security compared to conventional technologies such as Wi-Fi and 5G. The Light Communications 802.11bb Task Group was formed in 2018 chaired by pureLiFi and supported by Fraunhofer HHI, two firms which have been at the forefront of LiFi development efforts. Both organisations aim to see accelerated adoption and interoperability not only between LiFi vendors but also with Wi-Fi technologies as a result of these standardisation efforts.

The IEEE 802.11bb standard defines the physical layer specifications and system architectures for wireless communication using light waves. This new standard sets the foundation for the widespread adoption of LiFi technology and paves the way for the interoperability of LiFi systems with the successful Wi-Fi standard. Ratification of the standard was concluded in June 2023.

Richard Webb, Director, Network Infrastructure at industry analyst firm CCS Insights states: “The IEEE 802.11bb standard is an important milestone for LiFi technology placing LiFi as a complementary and integrated technology alongside the highly successful Wi-Fi standard. This opens-up exciting new opportunities for LiFi to work seamlessly with Wi-Fi and make communications better in a range of applications, from high-speed, secure internet access in the home and office to expanding next generation experiences to wider markets such as XR and spatial computing.”

Volker Jungnickel, head of metro-, access- and inhouse systems at Fraunhofer HHI, who served as technical editor of the 802.11bb task group, commented on the importance of a global LiFi standard: "The IEEE 802.11bb standard is a critical step to enable interoperability between multiple vendors. It allows for the first time LiFi solutions inside the Wi-Fi ecosystem. This is essential for the development of new and innovative IoT applications. LiFi can replace cables by short-range optical wireless links and connect numerous sensors and actuators to the Internet. We believe that this will create a future mass market. Fraunhofer HHI is looking forward to work with LiFi vendors from lighting and communication industries to make this a reality."

"The release of the IEEE 802.11bb standard is a significant moment for the wireless communications industry," says pureLiFi’s VP of Standardisation, Nikola Serafimovski, who chaired the 802.1bb Task Group. “Through the activity of the 802.11bb task group, LiFi attracted interest from some of the biggest industry players ranging from semiconductor companies to leading mobile phone manufacturers. We worked with these key stakeholders to create a standard that will provide what the industry needs to adopt LiFi at scale.”

Fraunhofer HHI developed its NEON series of LiFi devices. Fraunhofer HHI offers all building blocks for LiFi systems, tailors devices for special applications and conducts field trials in real scenarios. Results show that LiFi offers high-speed mobile connectivity in areas where the use of radio waves is limited, like in fixed wireless access, classrooms, medical, and industrial scenarios. LiFi complements or serves as an alternative to Wi-Fi and 5G. 802.11bb integrates easily with existing infrastructures. Operating in an exclusive optical spectrum, it ensures higher reliability and lower latency and jitter. Light's line-of-sight propagation enhances security by preventing wall penetration, reducing jamming and eavesdropping risks, and enabling centimetre-precision indoor navigation.

 “Fraunhofer HHI welcomes the new IEEE Std 802.11bb,” says Dominic Schulz, lead of LiFi development at Fraunhofer HHI. “With IEEE Std 802.11bb, LiFi has a first solution addressing mass-market requirements, such as low cost, low energy and high volumes. Industry can fully reuse Wi-Fi protocols over the light medium. This will bring traffic offloading, security and navigation capabilities of Wi-Fi to the next level.”

"pureLiFi is delighted to see the release of the IEEE 802.11bb standard," said Alistair Banham, CEO of pureLiFi. "This is a significant moment for the LiFi industry, as it provides a clear framework for the deployment of LiFi technology on a global scale. We are proud to have played a leading role in its creation and to be ready with the world’s first standards-compliant devices. The existence of a global standard gives confidence to device manufacturers who will deploy LiFi at scale.”

pureLiFi, a pioneering company in the development of LiFi technology, has already developed the world's first standards-compliant devices including the recently released Light Antenna ONE. Analogous to the antenna chain in a radio frequency (RF) system such as Wi-Fi, it can be integrated with existing Wi-Fi chipsets that ship in the billions annually. LiFi simply appears to the system as if it were another band of Wi-Fi.

The future is light

With a history going back 200 years in optical technology, its strong scientific foundation and the high number of specialized companies, the capital region is one of Europe’s leading locations in optics, photonics and microsystem technology. In its role as an interface between various technologies, the region often forms the basis for innovative products and services, e.g. in medical and sensory technology or energy and communication technology.

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Source: PM Fraunhofer Heinrich-Hertz-Institut HHI "Global LiFi firms welcome the release of IEEE 802.11bb
global light communications standard", 07|17|2023