Ready or not, the Multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output (MU-MIMO) technology for wireless communication is set to arrive in 2016. As phones that support MU-MIMO start showing up, this updated communication technology could make Wi-Fi obsolete and revolutionize the wireless networking world forever. Laptops and tablets are also likely to start supporting this feature in the immediate future.
So what is MU-MIMO? Let us start by taking a look at our current routers; they are very good at sending and receiving data, but only in one direction. In other words, they can only talk to one device at a time. If you are getting video streamed onto your computer, your router cannot also be streaming online video gameplay to a console.
The fact that you can watch a movie on your computer, while at the same time your son plays a video game on his tablet is because of the router’s ability to very rapidly rattle off bits of data to multiple devices one after the other. This works so well that we have never noticed any difference, unless a large number of devices were attempting to access the same router.
Enter MU-MIMO, which aims to equip the router to transmit data to multiple devices simultaneously, using separate streams for each device, thereby increasing efficiency, making it faster and allowing for more interesting network configurations. MU-MIMO is an exciting development because it has a noticeable impact on everyday Wi-Fi use without directly changing bandwidth or other key factors. It just makes networks much more efficient.
When using this new standard, you do not need multiple antennas sticking out of your router, and have a more stable Wi-Fi connection for your laptop, phone, tablet, or computer. This is particularly noticeable when streaming video or performing other demanding tasks. Your Internet speed feels faster and more dependable, although it is really just smart networking at work. You may also be able to use more devices on your Wi-Fi at once, which is handy when friends come over to visit.
MU-MIMO may be great, but it also has a couple limitations worth mentioning. Current standards support four devices, but add more than that and devices will have to share a stream, which brings us back to square one. Also, MU has to juggle more information about your devices and channel states than previous standards. This makes managing and troubleshooting MU networks more complicated. While router manufacturers are likely to start incorporating the new standard in their upcoming models, the technology will probably become main-stream only by 2017, when more devices capable of receiving MU-MIMO signals become the norm.