Li-Fi… It’s taken the internet by storm and boasts speeds that are 100 times faster than a traditional Wi-Fi connection. So why are companies like Talkroute, that provide their enterprise voice communications over various technologies, including the internet, already considering Li-Fi a consumer flop?
First of all, it’s important to understand that Li-Fi is nothing new. Your television remote uses the exact same wireless IR transmission technology. Li-Fi refers to this as visible light communication (VLC) which can transmit data by utilizing light up to speeds of 224 gigabits per second. This is what we would commonly refer to as your upload and download speeds. While you will be able to transmit large amounts of data much quicker over Li-Fi, there will be no improvement to latency, or what we commonly refer to as “lag”.
This means a Li-Fi connection will not improve the performance of internet media such as video conferencing, playing video games, or talking on the phone via the internet (VoIP). Latency will still very much depend on your network equipment, infrastructure, and your ISP.
So Li-Fi won’t improve latency but you will still be able to download massive files in a blink of an eye. Imagine downloading the latest episode of Game of Thrones to your iPad in less than one second… That’s still pretty amazing. Unfortunately, just like your TV remote requires line-of-sight with your television, the connection to your iPad requires line-of-sight with your Li-Fi transmitter. That means if you are happen to cover the sensor on your iPad or block the line-of-sight with a blanket as you lounge on your sofa, there goes your internet connection…
Which brings up another interesting point, where do most of us keep our traditional Wi-Fi routers? If you anything like me, it’s tucked away on a shelf in my home office. Since a Li-Fi connection can’t pass through walls, there needs to be a series of transmitters in every room of your home to transmit the signal. Besides the obvious limitations this would impose, it would also be quite cost prohibitive for most people.
While Li-Fi will probably never be a viable option to replace consumer grade Wi-Fi connections, it is not completely dead.
There are various applications where Li-Fi makes a lot of sense. For example, Internet Service Providers that currently utilize point-to-point RF connections to transmit data could benefit greatly by switching to Li-Fi. AT&T long lines used RF connection for years until they were eventually replaced by fiber optic cables and satellite communications. Using wireless transmission via light could help ease spectrum allocation issues.
While Li-Fi definitely has its place in the world of data transmission, touting it as a Wi-Fi replacement makes no sense at all. So go ahead and pull those Wi-Fi routers out of the trash… You will be needing them a bit longer.