Vodafone Germany said that it wants to build a partnership with Signify (formerly Phillips Lighting) to develop the use of LiFi technology in local networks in combination with 5G.
Such a partnership would enable customers of Vodafone to benefit from very fast connections, up to gigabit speeds. Signify recently introduced a LiFi system that uses light waves instead of radio signals such as WiFi or Bluetooth to provide wireless data transmission.
The system is called Trulifi. It uses lighting infrastructure to provide a reliable and secure high-speed broadband connection of up to 250 Mbps. A system combining 5G and LiFi may bring benefits to a variety of industries and to the Internet of Things generally.
LiFi, which uses light to transmit mobile data, has several advantages, as well as one disadvantage that could conceivably be taken as an advantage in certain circumstances. It enables signals to be transmitted in environments where cellular or other RF signals are overcrowded or where RF signals perform badly or are restricted for security or safety reasons. It is also easy to use in that it can be retrofitted to existing lighting systems and does not require an infrastructure of special lights to be installed. The potential difficulty is that LiFi cannot penetrate walls, which can be a concern in complex structures. However, that could be a strength in circumstances where privacy is important, in that the signal could be kept contained.
Up until now, LiFi has been an experimental solution, in development, but Signify’s Trulifi (launched earlier this year) marks the first time it is available on a workable basis, ready for implementation. On its own, LiFi is particularly appropriate for specialized, contained industrial environments. Combined with 5G, though it could have much wider utility, and it is this that has attracted Vodafone’s attention.
While it is clearly in an early stage of discussion, a partnership between a mobile operator and Signify to create a hybrid system of 5G and LiFi makes sense. Delivery of high-speed IoT solutions and industrial-based networks generally is desired by enterprises in many markets. The speed race is on, and it is not only speed that is wanted; it is also consistency and reliability. 5G signals will need boosting and support in challenging industrial and special-purpose environments, where WiFi and other RF signals often do not work well. In such circumstances, LiFi could step in. If a mobile operator can work with a cutting-edge technology partner to provide this kind of support, it will be one-up on the competition.