The more devices that connect to your home WiFi, 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.
Multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output technology—better known as MU-MIMO (a.k.a. Next-Gen AC or AC Wave 2)—allows a WiFi 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 WiFi experience.
For home WiFi users, annoyances such as choppy video and continual buffering can really put a damper on the fun, but anyone who uses a WiFi network will benefit from the performance improvements of MU-MIMO. Here are some of the ways MU-MIMO kicks common WiFi problems to the curb:
To use MU-MIMO, you must first have a router that supports the technology. WiFi 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.
Any wireless device will work with a MU-MIMO router, but to get the most WiFi 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.
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 WiFi® chip, 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.