Lighting the way for next-gen communications


11 November 2016

Why stop at Internet-enabled lights, when the future could be about light-enabled Internet. More specifically, it could be about using the ubiquitous LED (light emitting diode) to transmit data through visible light.

Known as Light Fidelity or Li-Fi, this is one of the technologies that the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) of Singapore placing its bets on in its role as innovation catalyst.

Unlike traditional telecommunications technologies that use radio frequency signals for data transmission, Li-Fi is an optical wireless communications technology that uses the visible light portion of the electromagnetic spectrum between 400 and 800THz. Operating at the higher range of the electromagnetic spectrum allows Li-Fi to deliver potentially higher throughput of up to 1Gbps.

According to the Li-Fi Research and Development Centre, the technology can achieve 10,000 times the data throughput and capacity of radio spectrum. It also noted that the visible light spectrum is “plentiful, free and unlicensed, mitigating the radio frequency spectrum crunch effect”.

Speaking at the National Infocomm Awards 2016 Gala Dinner on 10 November, Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim said Li-Fi has the potential to complement existing wireless networks and cater to growing demand for higher Internet connection speeds.

Some of the Li-Fi use cases highlighted by IMDA include:

  • Home and enterprise networking, where Li-Fi can provide a capacity boost by complementing existing networks such as mobile and Wi-Fi networks; and
  • Location-based services, where Li-Fi opens up new opportunities for advertising and navigational applications, with users of Li-Fi enabled mobile devices able to receive relevant information based on their location.

To encourage and facilitate technical trials within Singapore, IMDA has announced that it is waiving frequency fees associated with the technology. In general, fees for temporary radio frequency assignment for technical trials range from $100 to $2,800 depending on the radio frequency and the duration of the trial.

Issuing an invitation-to-trial, IMDA noted that there has been growing interest from both local and overseas companies to explore the potential benefits of Li-Fi and its applications.

In July this year, Temasek invested in Edinburgh-based telecommunications company pureLiFi to support the development of the firm’s technology. Companies such as StarHub are also working with pureLiFi to explore the possibility of conducting technology trials here.

Companies that are interested in conducting Li-Fi trials may refer to IMDA’s existing Technical Trial Framework, which defines licensing conditions such as the frequency range, maximum power levels and compliance with industry standard protocols for use in Singapore. The application for a Technical Trial licence can be found on the IMDA web site.