Image for representation purposes only. (Photo: Twitter)
Image for representation purposes only. (Photo: Twitter)

Why LiFi products are yet to shed light on India

  • Unlike WiFi that uses radio waves, LiFi is a wireless communication technology that uses light waves to provide an internet connection
  • Given that visible light spectrum is 10,000 times larger than radio waves LiFi’s speed can be 100 times faster than WiFi

Despite being a much speedier internet technology as compared to WiFi, LiFi implementations are yet to make any dent in India.

Unlike WiFi or wireless fidelity that uses radio waves, LiFi or light fidelity is a wireless communication technology that uses light waves to provide an internet connection. It allows for much faster data transfer and is considered more secure than WiFi. Given that the visible light spectrum is 10,000 times larger than radio waves and hence LiFi’s speed can be 100 times faster than WiFi.

Despite these advantages, Wipro Lighting that partnered with Scotland-based pureLiFi--a global leader in LiFi technology--more than two years ago to develop new applications for the wireless communications and lighting market in Asia, is yet to see commercial success with LiFi in India, acknowledges Vineet Agrawal, CEO of Wipro Consumer Care and Lighting.

He points out that WiFi spectrum is limited but when you use light, the spectrum increases. Second, data transfer is much faster, and third, data privacy is much higher. "The only disadvantage is that when there’s no light, you can’t get the data," notes Agrawal.

Agrawal believes LiFi solutions will eventually work successfully in sectors like banks where there is huge need for data privacy. “As of now, we have only got pilot installations in areas such as office space and also at a manufacturing site, but it’s a matter of time that it will take off." The technology has a relatively small set of customers as it is driven by need, and the customers that need data security already have ways to protect their data, explains Agrawal. “Cost is also a deterrent, which we are working to bring down," he added.

For instance, a 9W (9 watt) Wipro WiFi-enabled Smart Bulb is priced at Rs.2099 while a standard 9W Wipro LED bulb costs only Rs.240. Other products are similarly priced. On 1 October, for instance, Philips too announced the launch of its ‘Philips Smart Wi-Fi’ LED range of bulbs in India. However, comparisons with LED or WiFi-enabled LED bulbs are not fair since unlike WiFi-enabled LED bulbs that retail in the market, LiFi products are typically business to business (B2B) deals. As an example, PureLiFi has begun offering a LiFi starter kit for small businesses and institutions at the cost of £2500 (about Rs.2.18 lakh at today's rates), excluding delivery and duties.

The term Li-Fi was coined by Prof. Harald Haas, founder and chief scientist of pureLiFi, and also a professor of mobile communications at Edinburgh University. Li-Fi is a category of Optical Wireless Communications (OWC). According to the pureLiFi website, each year the world utilises 60% more wireless data than the previous one, and the number of connected devices (such as mobile phones and smart devices) is likely to be in excess of 50 billion by 2020. “If internet users are going to continue to live in the wireless cloud with wearables, virtual reality and in a fully connected world, we need new wireless technology such as LiFi to realise this future," pureLiFi said in a statement when it partnered with Wipro Lighting two years back.

Global Market Insights has forecast the worldwide LiFi market to reach over $75 billion by 2023.

To be sure, Wipro isn’t the first to talk about LiFi. In June this year, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) launched one of the first commercial LiFi systems. Signify's LiFi system, called Trulifi, is being piloted by Icade, the French real estate investment company in its smart office in La Defense, Paris.

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