As more household items become smart and connect to the internet, it’s tempting to see a future where wireless connectivity reigns supreme and reliance on hard-wired Ethernet connections all but disappear.

However, as the need for wireless connectivity grows, we’re actually far more likely to see a future where Ethernet connections are not only preferred but required—both in households and commercial settings.

One of the reasons for this is increasing interest in LiFi (Light Fidelity) technology, which some experts predict may replace Wi-Fi. LiFi has the potential to better support the growing number of devices that need to connect to the internet at any given time, but to function effectively LiFi requires extensive Ethernet support.

What is LiFi?

As a concept, LiFi has been around for roughly a decade. But recent advances are starting to turn concept into reality. In a nutshell, LiFi technology turns an LED bulb into a router. Where Wi-Fi routers use radio-frequency waves to transmit data, LiFi bulbs use light to transmit data.

What are the advantages of LiFi?

The main advantage of LiFi is that it isn’t Wi-Fi. As wireless data demands explode in the IoT era, the RF spectrum is getting crowded. LiFi, by contrast, uses an entirely new spectrum—light—to transmit data.

Further, LiFi offers significantly higher speeds than WiFi can muster. LiFi bulbs have been shown to provide speeds of up to 1Gbps, and in a controlled laboratory test they’ve been demonstrated to offer theoretical rates of up to 224Gbps.

Another significant advantage of LiFi is that it’s more secure and private than Wi-Fi. Because LiFi signals are line-of-sight only, data doesn’t move through walls. In fact, securing your network is as simple as closing your blinds or shutting the door.

How is LiFi integrated into the home?

Clearly, the line-of-sight factor is also one of LiFi’s biggest limitations. It means LiFi bulbs need to be located in every room or space where wireless access to the internet is needed.

For this reason, effective implementation of LiFi in a home or business will require robust structured wiring systems. Internet access will need to be hard-wired to each room or space in the building, either via Ethernet or powerline connections, and integrated directly with lighting fixtures in the ceiling.

This need for robust structured wiring systems holds true even with the looming expansion of 5G networks. 5G signals don’t penetrate walls and other structures very effectively, so it’s highly likely that 5G will enter the home or building through an access point and need to be distributed via Ethernet or powerline wiring to different areas in the home.

For telco pros and installers, LiFi is a technology to watch, as it could equal significant opportunity in the near future.