Networks

Infrared Wi-Fi Tech Could Supercharge Your Internet Browsing

Sam Pudwell joined Silicon UK as a reporter in December 2016. As well as being the resident Cloud aficionado, he covers areas such as cyber security, government IT and sports technology, with the aim of going to as many events as possible.

It’s still a few years away, but infrared Wi-Fi could be a gamechanger

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology have outlined a potential solution to the ultimate digital annoyance that is slow Wi-Fi.

According to researcher Joanne Oh, a wireless network based on harmless infrared rays would provide a capacity of more than 40Gbps per ray, while also enabling each device to have its own specific ray.

Oh hypothesises that ceiling mounted ‘light antennas’ could be used to very accurately direct rays of light supplied by an optical fibre, creating a maintenance-free system that doesn’t require any extra power.

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Infrared Wi-Fi

“The antennas contain a pair of gratings that radiate light rays of different wavelengths at different angles (‘passive diffraction gratings’),” the university explained.

“Changing the light wavelengths also changes the direction of the ray of light. Since a safe infrared wavelength is used that does not reach the vulnerable retina in your eye, this technique is harmless.”

Users wouldn’t have to worry about moving out of range, as another light antenna can simply take over as the user walks around the building. And, by assigning each device its own specific wavelength as it joins the network, capacity doesn’t have to be shared and there is no interference from any neighbouring Wi-Fi networks.

The potential capacity benefits are also sure to delight the many office workers left frustrated by slow Wi-Fi, which currently uses signals with a frequency of 2.5 or 5GHz. This potential new system uses infrared light with wavelengths of 1500 nanometers and higher, which Oh was able to translate into a top speed of 42.8 Gbps over a distance of 2.5 metres.

Professor of broadband communication technology Ton Koonen believes it will still be at least five years before the technology becomes available, adding that the first devices to be connected will likely be high data consumers such as video monitors, laptops or tablets.

Wi-Fi has continued to become ever-more pervasive in recent times, expanding further into our everyday lives.

For example, its prevalence is growing in aeroplanes through the likes of British Airways’s partnership with Inmarsat and in London’s tube network through Transport for London’s work in bringing Wi-Fi to all but 13 underground stations.

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