New IEEE 802.11bb global light communications standard released

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LiFi technology firms, pureLiFi and Fraunhofer HHI, have welcomed the release of IEEE 802.11bb the latest global light communications standard alongside IEEE 802.11 WiFi standards.

The bb standard is being described as a significant milestone for the LiFi market, as it provides a globally recognised framework for deployment of the technology.

LiFi uses light rather than radio frequencies to transmit data. By harnessing the light spectrum, LiFi can deliver faster, more reliable wireless communications with enhanced levels of security compared to conventional technologies such as WiFi and 5G.

The Light Communications 802.11bb Task Group was formed in 2018 chaired by pureLiFi and supported by Fraunhofer HHI, two firms which have been at the forefront of LiFi development efforts. Both organisations aim to see accelerated adoption and interoperability not only between LiFi vendors but also with WiFi technologies because of these standardisation efforts.

The IEEE 802.11bb standard defines the physical layer specifications and system architectures for wireless communication using light waves and sets the foundation for the widespread adoption of LiFi technology, paving the way for the interoperability of LiFi systems with the successful WiFi standard.

Ratification of the standard was concluded in June 2023.

According to Richard Webb, Director, Network Infrastructure at industry analyst firm CCS Insights, “The IEEE 802.11bb standard is an important milestone for LiFi technology placing LiFi as a complementary and integrated technology alongside the highly successful WiFi standard. This opens-up exciting new opportunities for LiFi to work seamlessly with WiFi and make communications better in a range of applications, from high-speed, secure internet access in the home and office to expanding next generation experiences to wider markets such as XR and spatial computing.”

"The release of the IEEE 802.11bb standard is a significant moment for the wireless communications industry," added pureLiFi’s VP of Standardisation, Nikola Serafimovski, who chaired the 802.1bb Task Group. “Through the activity of the 802.11bb task group, LiFi attracted interest from some of the biggest industry players ranging from semiconductor companies to leading mobile phone manufacturers.”

"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 WiFi ecosystem,” commented Volker Jungnickel from Fraunhofer HHI and the technical editor of the task group. “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."

pureLiFi has already developed the world's first standards-compliant devices including the recently released Light Antenna ONE which can be integrated with existing WiFi chipsets. With Light Antenna ONE, LiFi simply appears to the system as if it were another band of WiFi.

According to Alistair Banham, CEO of pureLiFi, "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. The existence of a global standard gives confidence to device manufacturers who will deploy LiFi at scale.

“With the release of the IEEE 802.11bb standard, pureLiFi believes that LiFi as a complimentary and additive solution to RF communications is now poised to take its place in the wireless communication market, offering unprecedented speed, security, and reliability to users around the world.”

“Fraunhofer HHI welcomes the new IEEE Std 802.11bb.”, added Dominic Schulz, lead of LiFi development at Fraunhofer HHI, a world leader in the development of mobile and optical communication networks and systems as well as processing and coding of video signals.

“LiFi offers high-speed mobile connectivity in areas with limited RF, like fixed wireless access, classrooms, medical, and industrial scenarios. It complements or serves as an alternative to WiFi and 5G. 802.11bb integrates easily with existing infrastructures. Operating in an exclusive optical spectrum ensures higher reliability and lower latency and jitter. Light's line-of-sight propagation enhances security by preventing wall penetration, reducing jamming and eavesdropping risks, and enabling centimetre-precision indoor navigation.”