The more devices that connect to your home Wi-Fi, the slower it moves. That's because most routers can only communicate with one device at a time. With these single-user (SU-MIMO) routers, each device waits its turn to send and receive data from the Internet, so when a new device connects, the line—and the wait—becomes a little longer. Luckily, there’s a new technology standard in town that drastically reduces wait time, and its name is MU-MIMO.

MU-MIMO Benefits

Multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output technology—better known as MU-MIMO (a.k.a. Next-Gen AC or AC Wave 2)—allows a Wi-Fi router to communicate with multiple devices simultaneously. This decreases the time each device has to wait for a signal and dramatically speeds up your network. Considering that the average household has upwards of eight devices battling for bandwidth simultaneously, MU-MIMO will increasingly improve your Wi-Fi experience.

For home Wi-Fi users, annoyances such as choppy video and continual buffering can really put a damper on the fun, but anyone who uses a Wi-Fi network will benefit from the performance improvements of MU-MIMO. Here are some of the ways MU-MIMO kicks common Wi-Fi problems to the curb:

  • Both MU-MIMO and non-MU-MIMO (SU-MIMO) devices operate faster because all devices on the network have less time to wait to get data from the Wi-Fi router.
  • MU-MIMO technology increases the capacity and efficiency of your router, allowing it to handle more Wi-Fi-intensive activities such as streaming and gaming.

Which Wi-Fi Routers Support MU-MIMO?

To use MU-MIMO, you must first have a router that supports the technology. Wi-Fi Routers operating on older standards such as Wireless-A, B, G, and N do not support MU-MIMO, and it's only a feature in some of the later Wireless-AC routers. Your safest bet is to look for a router that explicitly states it supports MU-MIMO, Next-Gen AC, or AC Wave 2.

What Devices Work With MU-MIMO Routers?

Any wireless device will work with a MU-MIMO router, but to get the most Wi-Fi performance improvement, the device should also support MU-MIMO technology. Based on exhibits at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Computex, it's expected that manufacturers of computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets will increasingly support MU-MIMO in the coming years. According to DigitalTrends.com, the technology should be a standard feature in most devices by 2017.

The Future of MU-MIMO Networking

Though MU-MIMO is still an emerging technology, forward-thinking companies like Qualcomm and Linksys have anticipated its future demand. With the introduction of Qualcomm’s Wave 2 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi® chip and Linksys’ Max-Stream EA8500 (the first MU-MIMO-capable router), this faster networking solution has taken its first step toward becoming the standard.

Both companies are promoting early adoption of MU-MIMO by offering the technology in a variety of products: routers, range extenders, and USB client adapters, with more to come as the technology is popularized. Given its superiority over existing network standards, it likely won’t be long before MU-MIMO becomes the norm.