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Faster Wi-Fi Over Optical Network

Himanshu Goenka
Using rays of light to transfer data, a researcher in the Netherlands managed download speeds of up to 42.8 Gbps over a distance of about 8.5 feet.

LTE/4G devices are becoming increasingly commonplace, as is our dependence on faster Wi-Fi connections wherever we are. Some of us, when faced with a slow connection, either on a crowded public hotspot or at some relative’s or friend’s house, even feel frustration about how long it takes for a page to load or some content to download.

If you are one of those, addicted to the need for speed on the information expressway, a Dutch researcher may have just the thing to perk you up.

Joanne Oh, who just received her PhD degree from the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), worked on a wireless network that uses infrared light (within wavelengths safe for humans) rays to transmit data. She tested it and managed download speeds (upload speeds were not tested) of up to 42.8 Gbps over a distance of 2.5 meters (about 8.5 feet). And based on her theory, the network never gets overcrowded, because everyone gets her or his data on their very own beam of light.

Read: Using Optoelectronics To Raise The Limits Of Data Transfer Speeds

In Oh’s model, optical fibers supply the rays of light containing data to a few “light antennas” which spread the light very precisely toward receiving devices. The direction of the distributed light is controlled by changing the wavelength of the rays of light. There is no sharing of bandwidth and no interference from other networks.

All of that sounds great, but an obvious question is, what happens to the speed at larger distances? A press release from TU/e doesn’t answer it, but the network has been designed specifically for indoor spaces. However, the statement addresses a limitation inherent in the theory.

If you are walking around a room or your house, and the direct line of sight with the “light antenna” is broken, you lose connectivity altogether. The solution is to have multiple antennas (theoretically quite cheap) and for one antenna to seamlessly take over from another as you move around with your device. The catch is, such antennas don’t yet exist.

A larger group of doctoral students at TU/e “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,” the statement said. According to Ton Koonen, who heads that group, devices based on this technology could be available in stories in the next five years.

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