A team of researchers working at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands have just published details of a new wireless connectivity solution they have developed which is capable of achieving dramatically faster speeds than any current Wi-Fi service, according to the Mirror.
By harnessing infrared signals, download speeds achieved using the tech have hit over 42 gigabits per second. By comparison, the theoretical maximum speed of 802.11ac Wi-Fi is 7Gbps, while real world speeds experienced by users on a daily basis are significantly lower still, with the UK’s best networks operating at around 300Mbps.
This development has hit the headlines not only because of its blistering performance, but also because it should be inexpensive to roll out and is able to scale to accommodate a large number of users simultaneously without resulting in a hit to connection speeds.
The devices which connect to the IR antennas, which can be installed on the ceilings of offices and other public places, will be tracked in real time to keep up with their location and ensure that a connection is maintained. Furthermore, any device which connects is assigned an individual wavelength, which helps to avoid traffic taking its toll on the network in a multiuser environment.
The final benefit worth noting is that because IR is being used, the wavelengths over which the connectivity operates will not cause disruption of any kind, enabling other wireless services to operate seamlessly in the same area with no adverse effects.
It should be noted that the headline-grabbing 42.8Gbps speed which was hit using this system was achieved when the device receiving the signal was just two and a half meters away from the antenna which transmitted it. Whether or not this will mean that speed will decrease over longer distances, or line of sight obstructions will prevent connections being maintainable, remains to be seen.
Project spokesperson, Dr Joanne Oh, said that this was a potentially revolutionary development that might change the way that Wi-Fi operates and the kinds of things that can be achieved using wireless web access. She also said that it would take at least half a decade for this IR tech to become a commercially viable platform, so anyone expecting a major speed boost in the short term will be disappointed.
The antennas used in this system are effectively heavily adapted fibre optic cables which have the ability to alter the direction at which light is emitted. This overcomes many of the limitations which previous systems experienced, which made use of mirrors rather than fibre optics.
The reason that the speed of IR-based Wi-Fi is much higher than current systems is all to do with the frequency at which it operates which, at close to 200 terahertz, is a drastic leap up from the gigahertz-based scale of existing connections.
The tests involving the new system were mostly focused on delivering the quickest possible download speeds, while uploads from the device operated over standard Wi-Fi, nor infrared. So there is still a long way to go before such a system can be implemented practically.
Of course some would argue that pursuing faster Wi-Fi is not necessary, given that the impending rollout of 5G mobile networking will render fixed point wireless connectivity redundant. If users are able to access ultrafast speeds from any location on their mobile device, why would they need to rely on Wi-Fi at all?
Even in the age of 4G, the use of Wi-Fi is still prevalent for a variety of reasons, meaning that most businesses and domestic broadband customers cannot afford to be without it.