Imagine an instant Internet. A really fast one that far exceeds the performance you’re promised when signing up for a cable package.

And to make it crazier, it all comes from a light bulb.

This isn’t a piece of science fiction — an Estonian startup called Velmenni recently used what’s called Li-Fi to transmit data at speeds as fast as 1 gigabit per second (Gbps).

That’s about 100 times faster than current Wi-Fi technology. You could download a full-length film in seconds. In laboratory tests, speeds have reached up to 224 Gbps.

What's Li-Fi?

In short, Li-Fi is a technology that uses the visible spectrum to transmit data.

Along with the greater speeds, it could be more secure and suffer less device interference since it would be operating on a spectrum with less interference.

Wi-Fi networks, particularly those operating at the 2.4 GHz range, often run into interference issues with so many other devices hogging that space.

The term is the brainchild of German physicist Harald Haas, who coined it during a TED talk where he offered his vision of using light bulbs as wireless hotspots.

A Boost to Wi-Fi

While this all sounds great, it may not exactly kill off Wi-Fi. Because Li-Fi operates on the visual spectrum, it can’t penetrate walls. It also won’t work in direct sunlight (though can deal with some indirect light indoors).

In essence, it’s likely that Li-Fi would serve a complementary function to our current wireless networks.

With some Li-Fi devices working in tandem with traditional routers, a house, building or a business could have a more well-rounded and complete network solution.

The Potential Impact

The possible implications are pretty substantial. If you’re running a cafe or restaurant, you could be a pretty valuable spot on the block if you’re one of the first places offering Li-Fi.

Also, Haas views Li-Fi as a way to solve Internet access in some areas that don’t have the financial backing or infrastructure for strong networks.

However, it’s best not to toss your Wi-Fi equipment just yet. As with any futuristic technology, it’s a matter of finding hardware partners and gaining buy-in from the wider ecosystem before something like this could take off.

Title image by Ashes Sitoula