Fast internet has become the norm in the world. People have gotten used to high-speed internet that loads their Google search results within a fraction of a second. A beefy Wi-Fi connection has become a necessity in most households. Moreover, houses these days are turning into smart homes where even a simple toaster has also gotten smart.
It is commonplace today that most homes have multiple devices connected to the internet. Smart TV, multiple smartphones, laptops, gaming consoles, and plenty of other smart equipment has become a standard in a modern home. A strong Wi-Fi connection is required to handle all these devices at the same time.
However, even if the best ISP [Internet Service Provider] is chosen your Wi-Fi connection will experience some lag if all these devices are working at the same time. The extend of the lag will depend on the number of devices that are trying to use the Wi-Fi at the same time.
What is MU-MIMO?
To equally distribute the bandwidth of the Wi-Fi, MU-MIMO was introduced. MU-MIMO stands for multi-user, multiple inputs, multiple outputs, an upgraded version of the MIMO technology. This is a wireless technology supported by routers and endpoint devices. This was invented to help increase the number of antennas on a wireless router to improve the capacity for wireless connections.
The newly evolved MU-MIMO technology allows multiple Wi-Fi devices to receive multiple data streams at the same time. This means that if you have several internet devices at home each device can send and receive information at the same time, at equal speeds.
Let’s explore the difference between a normal wi-fi connection and a connection that employs this technology. Under a normal Wi-Fi connection, if multiple users are trying to access a single frequency, they could only be allowed through one at a time. So, only one person will be able to use the internet while others will have to wait for their turn. This is much similar to a queue waiting to board a bus.
A MU-MIMO transmitter eliminates the waiting period by dividing the available bandwidth into individual streams that share the connection equally. MU-MIMO routers are of three types namely; 2×2, 3×3, and 4×4. These numbers refer to the number of streams that these routers can create for each device in your household. Hence, up to four devices can get a private router to stream movies on Netflix, or YouTube, etc. The router can keep its signal constant for these four devices, and evenly distribute the bandwidth to each without compromising the speed of other devices connected to the same network.
MU-MIMO technology is also referred to as Next-Gen AC or AC Wave 2. The AC in its name refers to the 802.11ac protocol. Standards older than 802.11ac (such as 802.11b, g, and n) do not support the technology. When the standard came into existence a few years ago, only routers and access points supported the technology. Since then, MU-MIMO started gaining popularity and many endpoint devices now support MU-MIMO.
The technology is especially useful in high-density networks where numerous devices attempt to share a single Wi-Fi connection. Since its evolution, many endpoint devices now support this new technology. Devices from Qualcomm, versions after the iPhone 6, and numerous other range extenders, and USB client adapters now support this technology. Xiaomi rolled out a brand new Mi AIoT Router AX3600 recently which supports the MU-MIMO technology.
Drawbacks of the MU-MIMO tech
This new-gen tech has its drawbacks like any other technology. The main shortcoming of the transmitter is that it is spatial. This means that if two devices are closeby and are trying to access the network, both devices will have to share the same stream.
Imagine you are playing a graphic intensive game and at the same time your sibling is trying to download a few movies right in the next room. Since your devices are placed close by, the MU-MIMO will not split the bandwidth. As a result, you will both end up using the same stream. This can cause a lag in the game and also slow down the movie downloading time.
As a way around this, you can move to a room that is farther away from your sibling so the MU-MIMO router can support both processes simultaneously without compromising on the speed. This movement will push the MU-MIMO to divide the bandwidth equally between you both, so both actions can be equally powered.
Another drawback is that the technology only works for downlink connections. If you are setting this up at home then it is useful as a home needs more download speed than upload speed since most of the activities revolve around streaming, gaming, and browsing. However, this is not advisable for a business enterprise. If you are a content creator working as a part of an online media creation website your connection would require beefy upload speed. Therefore, MU-MIMO is less useful in a business enterprise compared to home users.
MU-MIMO is still on the path of development. Innovations are happening to add 8×8 streaming capacity for the new technology. This will mean that more number of devices can be handled by the same network connection. Companies are also exploring to speed up uplink connections as well. Many are promoting the early adoption of this technology so more innovations can find its way to make MU-MIMO more efficient.