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UK Team Teases 5G in a Light Bulb

Researchers at Brunel University London have secured funding to develop a proof-of-concept wireless network that aims to fuse LiFi with mmWave technology.

The project builds on the emerging LiFi (aka visible light communications or VLC) technological standard, which uses visible light to transmit data, and mmWave (millimeter wave) tech, which has figured largely in trials of what could form part of the 5G standard. Organizers aim to demonstrate 10Gbps connections in homes and buildings with a delay of a millisecond.

This "remote radio-light head 5G" project is headed by Professor John Cosmas, who says the ultra-low latency could revolutionize industrial applications like remote surgery as well as generally make working from home more viable for everyone. It installs LiFi bulbs in place of standard LED ones, which connect to your router via Ethernet and pass data to and from your devices using a LiFi receiver, like the one featured in the LiFi-X dongle.

Internet of Radio Light

Brunel's hybrid LiFi network would take this and add mmWave senders and receivers into light fittings, which would then communicate with the 5G radios of phones within the home.

Using about $850,000 secured from Europe's Horizon 2020 fund, Prof. Cosmas's team plans to demonstrate the network in a Chinese supermarket, the Musée de la Carte à Jouer in Paris, and on the Madrid Underground, over the next three years.


The results of the Madrid trial may be of particular interest to Transport for London, which at some point might want to upgrade its own wireless network. Incidentally Cisco, which supplies the hardware for the Virgin Media-powered network, is working on adding LiFi switches to routers, so if 5.8GHz Wi-Fi doesn't work out, this could be a good alternative.

Prof. Cosmas added that the hybrid LiFi system offers health benefits, due to lower power requirements for data transmissions, which "could reduce the ill effects on humans and potentially lower incidence of tumors and leukemia." As ISP Review notes, hard evidence that Wi-Fi causes cancer isn't there, making this an odd thing to say, but as the saying goes, an absence of evidence isn't always evidence of an absence.

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