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OPPO could be working on phones with radical Li-Fi tech

Li-Fi uses light for data transmission rather than radio waves, as is the case with Wi-Fi.

Published onAugust 12, 2020

OPPO Reno 4 OPPO Logo
Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority
  • New OPPO patents reveal that the firm is working on a phone with Li-Fi technology.
  • This tech uses light to transmit and receive data rather than radio waves used by Wi-Fi.
  • There’s no guarantee that this will be a commercial phone though.

Wi-Fi has been the standard on smartphones for well over a decade now, stepping in where high data usage and a more stable connection are needed compared to 3G and 4G. However, it looks like OPPO is thinking about an even faster standard thanks to its latest patent filings.

LetsGoDigital has uncovered a patent published in China that details an OPPO phone design with Li-Fi connectivity. More specifically, we see a tiny sensor placed at the top of the phone and/or on the back to facilitate Li-Fi functionality. Check out the image below for a better idea of the design.

OPPO LiFi phone patent LetsGoDigital

Li-Fi is a form of connectivity that uses visible light to transmit and receive data as opposed to Wi-Fi, which uses radio waves to do so. An official Li-Fi website notes that existing LED bulbs can be equipped with Li-Fi via a microchip, with these lights flickering rapidly in order to transmit data to a target device. The transmitting light flickers so quickly that it appears to be on all the time. Although the light needs to stay on to send data over Li-Fi, it can be dimmed to appear off to the human eye.

So how would this system work on a smartphone then? Well, the outlet also uncovered an OPPO patent filed with the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) that details how Li-Fi would work on its device. More specifically, the patent notes that the transmitting light will send a Li-Fi signal to the phone, with the aforementioned rectangular sensors capturing this light as you’d expect.

One problem is ambient light though, but the OPPO patent describes an “isolation component” within the receiving device’s sensor that filters out all ambient light except for the preset Li-Fi frequency. Furthermore, the patent filing notes that the desired frequency is set when the transmitting and receiving devices first conduct a “handshake,” so other devices can’t read the data transmissions.

Li-Fi vs Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi and Li-Fi can co-exist given that one uses radio waves while the other uses light. But there are a few advantages to using Li-Fi versus traditional Wi-Fi connectivity, with speed being one of the touted benefits. Commercial Li-Fi providers tout speeds of up to 250Mbps, but other tests have also delivered speeds of 8Gbps to 10Gbps.

Another major benefit is the lack of congestion, as it doesn’t suffer from limited spectrum as much as Wi-Fi nor does it suffer from electromagnetic interference. Li-Fi can be more versatile too thanks to the use of existing LED lighting, allowing for its use in areas where Wi-Fi isn’t allowed or encouraged. The new standard is also said to offer better security as light can’t penetrate walls. But that fact brings us to a few disadvantages.

Read: What is Wi-Fi 6E and unlicensed 6GHz spectrum?

You can’t experience blanket Li-Fi coverage in your home via one transmitting device as is the case with Wi-Fi, owing to the fact that it indeed can’t penetrate walls. The connectivity standard also has a shorter range than Wi-Fi even without walls being present, capped at 10 meters (33 feet). Meanwhile, typical 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi has a quoted range of 30 to 46 meters (100 to 151 feet).  So Wi-Fi is still more suitable for the likes of malls and huge, open-plan offices.

There’s no guarantee these OPPO patents will result in a commercially available product though. Furthermore, we’ve seen newer Wi-Fi standards tackle some issues like congestion and speed. Still, it’s rather cool to see manufacturers exploring radical new technology like this.

Next: Motorola Edge review — Numbers don’t mean anything

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