IEEE Approves 802.11bb Standard for High-Speed Light-Based Networks

Jul 14, 2023

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has taken a major step forward in wireless communications with the formal approval of the IEEE 802.11bb LiFi standard. This innovative standard aims to address the challenges of an increasingly crowded radio spectrum by introducing high-speed, light-based wireless networks through near-infrared light.

With a theoretical peak throughput of 9.6Gb/s, the 802.11bb LiFi standard opens up new possibilities for high-speed data transmission. By leveraging existing Wi-Fi concepts and extending them to near-infrared light, this standard allows for data transmission using a building’s lighting system or dedicated access points.

“The IEEE 802.11bb standard is a critical step to enable interoperability between multiple vendors. It allows for the first time LiFi solutions inside the Wi-Fi ecosystem,” says Volker Jungnickel, the technical editor from Fraunhofer HHI, who played a significant role in its development. “This is essential for the development of new and innovative applications. LiFi can replace cables by short-range optical wireless links and connect numerous sensors and actuators to the Internet. We believe that this will create a future mass market.”

Leading the way in LiFi technology, pureLiFi chaired the Light Communications 802.11bb Task Group, defining the physical layer specification and systems architecture. The company has already developed the Light Antenna ONE module, which seamlessly adds LiFi support to existing Wi-Fi chipsets, presenting the light-based data channel as just another Wi-Fi band. The standard is capable of delivering throughput ranging from 10Mb/s to an impressive 9.6Gb/s, offering exceptional speed, security, and reliability to users globally.

“This is a significant moment for the LiFi industry, as it provides a clear framework for the deployment of LiFi technology on a global scale,” says Alistair Banham, CEO of pureLiFi. “We are proud to have played a leading role in its creation and to be ready with the world’s first standards-compliant devices. The existence of a global standard gives confidence to device manufacturers who will deploy LiFi at scale.”

Early adopters of the technology are expected to come from sectors where the local radio spectrum faces challenges, such as education, medical, and industrial sectors. The technology’s low latency and high throughput also make it appealing for home use. Beyond data transmission, the 802.11bb standard offers centimeter-level indoor positioning capabilities, adding another dimension of utility.

The IEEE 802.11bb standard is available now on the IEEE Standards Association (SA) website, enabling companies to develop LiFi-based devices with assurance of interoperability. While no specific consumer product launch dates have been announced yet, the industry anticipates a bright future for LiFi, with unprecedented speed and reliability for users worldwide.

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