Wi-Fi plays a big role in our everyday life. In fact, one of the biggest issues on the Rice campus is the inconsistent Wi-Fi. Whether the connection speed is slow or the internet is not working altogether, there are problems with Wi-Fi. Larger than our campus, society as a whole is reaching limits with its Wi-Fi limits. There is hope, however, with the introduction of Li-Fi.

Origin of Li-Fi

The word Li-Fi originated from a 2011 Ted Talk by Harold Haas. In this demonstration, Haas showcased how a single, flickering LED light transmits more data than a cellular tower.1

Li-Fi, or Light Fidelity, is a form of visible light communication. While LED lightbulbs have a constant current, Li-Fi is produced from a varying current and results in a fluctuating light intensity.2 These LED lights have a language of switching on and off that is similar to binary code.1 A photo-detector works to translate these light intensities to “stream-able content.”3 These lights flicker so fast, however, that the human eye cannot perceive them.1

Li-Fi in Practice

Li-Fi was tested in businesses and urban areas in Tallin, Estonia. The findings demonstrated that data was transmitted at a speed of 1 GB per second--100 times faster than modern average Wi-Fi speeds.1 At its highest speeds, Li-Fi transmitted at 224 gigabits per second, which means it could download 18 movies each of 1.5 GB per second.3

Li-Fi vs Wi-Fi

Besides the advantage of a greater speed, Li-Fi does not create electromagnetic interference like Wi-Fi.4 Studies show that electromagnetic interference is linked to Alzheimer’s disease and various types of cancer. Therefore, Li-Fi would work better in health-sensitive places like hospitals.

Li-Fi, however, isn’t perfect. Li-Fi is unable to work outdoors. The signals are not able to distinguish daylight from the LED lights.2 Li-Fi is also unable to pass through walls. While architecture designs can be created to bypass this issue, they may be hard to implement. This issue can also be interpreted positively as Li-Fi having greater security because one must be present in the room to access the Internet signal.4 This means that the neighbors can no longer steal your Wi-Fi. This increased protection also encourages the use of Li-Fi in areas with sensitive, valuable information like hospitals or military bases.

Future of Li-Fi

With our current growing rates of data usages and faster speeds, Wi-Fi alone is not capable alone of supporting this infrastructure.4 Li-Fi can work in conjunction with Wi-Fi to solve the increasing demand for a stronger wireless connection.

Amani Ramiz is a freshman from Brown College at Rice University.


  1. Crew, B. Li-Fi has just been tested in the real world, and it's 100 times faster than Wi-Fi. http://www.sciencealert.com/li-fi-tested-in-the-real-world-for-the-first-time-is-100-times-faster-than-wi-fi (accessed 1/14/16), part of Science Alert

  2. Painter, L. What is Li-Fi? Everything you need to know about the new wireless communication standard. http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/new-product/network-wifi/heres-everything-we-know-so-far-about-li-fi-vlc-technology-3633318/ (accessed 1/14/16), part of PC Advisor.

  3. Mercer, C. What is Li-Fi? How does it work? Wi-Fi vs Li-Fi vs Wi-Fi HaLow: the ultimate definition of Li-Fi. http://www.techworld.com/big-data/what-is-li-fi-everything-you-need-know-3632764/ (accessed 1/14/16), part of Tech World.

  4. Marr, B. Will Li-Fi take Big Data and the Internet of Things to a new level. https://powermore.dell.com/business/will-li-fi-take-big-data-internet-things-new-level/ (accessed 1/14/16), part of Dell.