Innovation

Infrared light could make Wi-Fi '100 times faster,' new research says

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology have come up with a technique to transfer data on infrared waves, boosting Wi-Fi speed and bandwidth.

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Image: iStockphoto/chombosan

Researchers out of Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands recently achieved Wi-Fi speeds of 42.8 Gbit/s on a network that uses infrared rays to transmit data. The innovations could help solve common capacity and bandwidth issues as users consume ever more data in the future.

As reported Friday on ScienceDaily, the 42.8 Gbit/s is achieved per ray. And, as each device would have access to its own ray of light, the report noted, user devices wouldn't need to share bandwidth.

What the report called "light antennas" would provide the rays, which would be supplied by optical fiber. According to the report, the systems could, in theory, be low cost and could be installed on the ceiling of a business or home, for example.

SEE: Video: Top 5 ways 5G will change things

"Since there are no moving parts, it is maintenance-free and needs no power: the antennas contain a pair of gratings that radiate light rays of different wavelengths at different angles," the report said.

If a user moves out of the line of sight of one of the antennas, the signal would jump to another nearby antenna, the report said. User devices could be tracked by radio signals they transmit, so the network knows which antenna to utilize. The report also said that the infrared network wouldn't have to deal with any interference from close-by Wi-Fi networks either.

Whereas traditional Wi-Fi utilizes 2.5 or 5 gigahertz radio signals, Eindhoven's system relies on light wavelengths of 1500 nanometers or more, which has very high frequencies allowing for the larger capacity. Eindhoven researcher Joanne Oh was able to achieve the listed 42.8 Gbit/s speed from 2.5 meters away, the report said. So far, though, the system has only been used with downloads, not uploads yet.

The system is safe for human users, as it uses a wavelength that is harmless to the retina, the report said. However, Eindhoven professor Ton Koonen doesn't believe the technology will be commercially available for at least five years.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. A new wireless network system developed at Eindhoven University of Technology was able to achieve 42.8 Gbit/s speed using infrared light rays.
  2. The system, according to a report, could be easy and cheap to set up, relying on "light antennas" to transmit the signal.
  3. The wavelengths used are safe for humans, as they are considered harmless to the retina.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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