Friday, March 17, 2017

WiFi at Light Speed Works Right Now - Science

Slow wi-fi is a source of irritation that nearly everyone experiences. Wireless devices in the home consume ever more data, and it's only growing, and congesting the wi-fi network. Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology have come up with a surprising solution: a wireless network based on harmless infrared rays. The capacity is not only huge (more than 40Gbit/s per ray) but also there is no need to share since every device gets its own ray of light. This was the subject for which TU/e researcher Joanne Oh received her PhD degree with the 'cum laude' distinction last week.

Science Daily:  Wi-fi on rays of light: 100 times faster, and never overloaded

It may not be surprising you all that much to see it's possible and the question is whether it works.

The system conceived at TU Eindhoven uses infrared light with wavelengths of 1500 nanometers and higher; this light has frequencies that are thousands of times higher, some 200 terahertz, which makes the data capacity of the light rays much larger. Joanne Oh even managed a speed of 42.8 Gbit/s over a distance of 2.5 meters. For comparison, the average connection speed in the Netherlands is two thousand times less (17.6 Mbit/s). Even if you have the very best wi-fi system available, you won't get more than 300 Mbit/s in total, which is some hundred times less than the speed per ray of light achieved by the Eindhoven study. The Eindhoven system has so far used the light rays only to download; uploads are still done using radio signals since in most applications much less capacity is needed for uploading.

- SD

It's nowhere near a practical type of device for commercial applications but the technology does seem to work and at blistering speed.

There's a large-scale project behind this and the part developed by Joanne Oh integrates into the rest of the research.

The work of doctoral student Oh is part of the wider BROWSE project headed up by professor of broadband communication technology Ton Koonen, and with funding from the European Research Council. Joanne Oh focused predominantly on the technology of data transmission via directable infrared light rays. Other PhDs are still working on the technology that tracks the location of all the wireless devices as well as on the essential central fiber-optic network connecting the light antennas. Koonen expects it will still be five years or more before the new technology will be in our stores. He thinks that the first devices to be connected to this new kind of wireless network will be high data consumers like video monitors, laptops or tablets.

- SD

It's a long time until production but you see the potential.  If you want to play with this crowd, this looks like an excellent place to be:

The work of Oh and Koonen comes under the auspices of the TU/e Institute for Photonic Integration, one of the world's leading research institutes for 'photonics', the use of light (photons) rather than electricity (electrons) to transmit data.

- SD


Kannafoot said...

It seems to me that the applications are fairly limited. It may replace, say, inter-cell tower communication, as an example, but it can't replace anything that doesn't already have permanent line-of-sight with the device to which it is communicating. That's the limitation with light as a means of transmitting data sans wires. It requires line of sight. What it *may* do is improve the practicality of satellite based net access since, at least for the communication part, it greatly improves speed. But, in all cases, the limiting factor is the sending and receiving equipment, not the actual transmission methodology.

Peas InOurThyme said...

Yep, line of sight is fine for smoke signals but not much else. The application within a home or other central site is questionable if the data doesn't come down the line at that speed but maybe that's valid for special circumstances. Here's one: how about inside a spaceship with limited space but big internal data. It's thin but may be useful that way.