RIS-Assisted Visible Light Communication Systems: A Tutorial

Sylvester Aboagye, Alain R. Ndjiongue, Telex M.N. Ngatched, Octavia A. Dobre, H. Vincent Poor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Recent intensive and extensive development of the fifth-generation (5G) of cellular networks has led to their deployment throughout much of the world. As part of this implementation, one of the challenges that must be addressed is the skip-zone problem, which occurs when objects such as trees, people, animals, and vehicles obstruct the transmission of signals. In free-space optical (FSO) and radio frequency (RF) systems, dead zones are most often caused by buildings and trees, while in visible light communications (VLC), obstructions are caused by individuals moving around a room or objects placed in the room. A signal obstruction can significantly reduce the signal-to-noise ratio in RF and indoor VLC systems, whereas in FSO systems, where the transmitted signals are directional, the obstruction can completely disrupt data transmission. Therefore, the skip-zone dilemma must be resolved to ensure the smooth and efficient operation of 5G and beyond networks. By placing a relay between a transmitter and a receiver, the effects of obstacles can be mitigated. As a result, the signal from the transmitter will reach the receiver. In recent years, reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RISs) that are more efficient than relays have become widely accepted as a method of mitigating skip-zones and providing reconfigurable radio environments. However, there have been limited studies of RISs for optical wireless communication (OWC) systems. Through the RIS technology, OWC and RF communication channels can be reconfigured. This paper aims to provide a comprehensive tutorial on indoor VLC systems utilizing RIS technology. The article discusses the basics of VLC and RISs and reintroduces RISs for OWC systems, focusing on RIS-assisted indoor VLC systems. We also provide a comprehensive overview of optical RISs and examine the differences between optical RISs, RF-RISs, and optical relays. Furthermore, we discuss in detail how RISs can be used to overcome line-of-sight blockages and the device orientation issue in VLC systems while revealing key challenges such as RIS element orientation design, RIS elements to access point/user assignment design, and RIS array positioning design problems that need to be studied. Moreover, we discuss and propose several research problems on integrating optical RISs with other emerging technologies, including non-orthogonal multiple access, multiple-input multiple-output systems, physical layer security, and simultaneous lightwave and power transfer in VLC systems. Finally, we highlight other important research directions that can further improve the performance of RIS-assisted VLC systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-288
Number of pages38
JournalIEEE Communications Surveys and Tutorials
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces
  • liquid crystals
  • metasurfaces
  • mirror arrays
  • non-orthogonal multiple access
  • physical layer security
  • visible light communication


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