The IEEE Standards Board has approved IEEE 802.11bb as the latest global light communications standard. The bb standard marks a significant milestone for the LiFi market, as it provides a globally recognized framework for deployment of LiFi technology.
IEEE 802,11, the working group which developed the Wi-Fi standards, formed the Light Communications 802.11bb Task Group in 2018, chaired by pureLiFi and supported by Fraunhofer HHI, two entities that have been at the forefront of LiFi development efforts. LiFi, which stands for “light fidelity,” is a wireless technology that uses light rather than radio frequencies to transmit data. Ratification of the standard was concluded in June 2023.
The IEEE 802.11bb standard defines the physical layer specifications and system architectures for wireless communication using light waves. This new standard sets the foundation for the widespread adoption of LiFi technology and paves the way for the interoperability of LiFi systems with the successful WiFi standard.
The technology has been in development for years now, but the lack of a globally-recognized standard to go with it means there has been little enthusiasm from OEMs to develop and commercialise LiFi-enabled products. That could all change now, thanks to the release of the official LiFi standard.
“The release of the IEEE 802.11bb standard is a significant moment for the wireless communications industry,” said Nikola Serafimovski, VP of standardisation at pureLiFi, in a statement on Wednesday.
LiFi is a wireless technology that uses light rather than radio frequencies to transmit data. By harnessing the light spectrum, LiFi can unleash faster, more reliable wireless communications with unparalleled 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 as a result of these standardisation efforts.
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,” said 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. We worked with these key stakeholders to create a standard that will provide what the industry needs to adopt LiFi at scale. I would like to thank the support of Tuncer Baykas as Vice-Chair, and Volker Jungnickel as technical editor for helping make this process so successful.”
Volker Jungnickel from Fraunhofer HHI, technical editor of the task group, commented on the importance of a global LiFi standard: “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. 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. Fraunhofer HHI is looking forward to work with LiFi vendors from lighting and communication industries to make this a reality.”
pureLiFi, a pioneering company in the development of LiFi technology, has already developed the world’s first standards-compliant devices including the recently released Light Antenna ONE.
Analogous to the antenna chain in a radio frequency (RF) system such as WiFi, Light Antenna ONE inherently enables 802.11bb compliance. It can be integrated with existing WiFi chipsets that ship in the billions annually. With Light Antenna ONE, LiFi simply appears to the system as if it were another band of WiFi.
“pureLiFi is delighted to see the release of the IEEE 802.11bb standard,” said 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. 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.”
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 is a world leader in the development of mobile and optical communication networks and systems as well as processing and coding of video signals. HHI has studied use cases for indoor and outdoor applications with early adopters and made sustainable contributions to standards. HHI offers all building blocks for state-of-the-art LiFi systems, tailors prototypes for special applications and conducts field trials in real scenarios.
“Fraunhofer HHI welcomes the new IEEE 802.11bb,” said Dominic Schulz, lead of LiFi development at Fraunhofer HHI.
“ 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.”
With IEEE Std 802.11bb, LiFi has a first solution addressing mass-market requirements, such as low cost, low energy and high volumes. Industry can fully reuse WiFi protocols over the light medium. This will bring traffic offloading, security and navigation capabilities of WiFi to the next level.”