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UK researchers in Li-Fi connectivity breakthrough: 250x faster than 'superfast' broadband

Internet connectivity through light fidelity (Li-Fi) has reached a new milestone, according to UK researchers.

A team of researchers from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Strathclyde working on the Ultra-Parallel Visible Light Communications Project claim to have reached record data transmission speeds of 10.5 Gbit/s via Li-Fi.

Li-Fi works by utilising specialised LED bulbs to transmit data through parallel streams of light that are undetectable to the human eye.

"If you think of a shower head separating water out into parallel streams, that's how we can make light behave," said Professor Harald Haas, a German physicist and one of the project leaders at the University of Edinburgh.

To reach speeds in excess of 10 GBits/s, the researchers used a micro-LED bulb developed at the University of Strathclyde, transmitting 3.5 GBits/s through each of the primary colours – red, green and blue.

As wireless devices have proliferated in recent years, so has the demand for frequencies in the relevant portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. As the light spectrum is 10,000 time larger than the radio spectrum, Li-Fi could in theory solve a lot of problems.

This emerging technology could also provide low-cost wireless Internet more securely in localised areas, as light is unable to pass through walls unlike traditional Wi-Fi routers.

Professor Haas added that he believes everything from street lamps to the lights in aircraft cabins could be used as transmission points to send wireless data.

"All we need to do is fit a small microchip to every potential illumination device," Hass said, "and this would then combine two basic functionalities: illumination and wireless data transmission."

Watch Harald Haas demonstrate a system prototype in his 2011 TED Talk: 'Wireless data from every light bulb."