O2 tests light-based wireless transmission ahead of 5G tests

O2 is testing a light-based system of wireless data transmission at its headquarters in Slough as it continues its preparations for the launch of 5G.

Li-Fi technology allows for high-speed, bidirectional data transfer using visible light spectrum and is pitched as a safer, more reliable alternative to Wi-Fi, which uses invisible spectrum and is significantly more complex. Li-Fi is also more energy efficient.

The mobile operator has installed pureLiFi’s LiFi-XC system which comprises nine LED light bulbs and allows data to the sent by adjusting brightness.

O2 Li-Fi trials

“At O2 we're committed to building the best network possible for our customers, and a huge part of that is making sure we're ahead of the pack in testing the latest technology,” said O2 COO Derek McManus.

“Our LiFi trial shows how you can deliver high-speed connectivity to customers in new ways and is another example of how we're future-proofing our network as we pave the way for 5G in the UK.”

Li-Fi is touted as a way of providing affordable connectivity to remote parts of the world, with some prototypes using solar panels, and to disaster areas. It could also be used in the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect devices that rely on low power consumption and smartwatches.

“With the proliferation of internet-of-things devices and continued growth in mobile users, the demand for spectrum is under increasing pressure,” added Alistair Banham, pureLiFi CEO. “. LiFi is capable of unlocking unprecedented and much-needed data and bandwidth, and we are delighted that O2 has chosen to partner with pureLiFi to explore this tremendous potential.

“O2 is at the forefront of championing technologies to provide real solutions for 5G and beyond, and we look forward to working with them towards our common goal.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.