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This is mu-mimo: a complex WiFi system for faster internet

This new technology of mu-mimo standard is featured in more and more routers and can drastically increase the internet speed in the home.
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If you connect a lot of devices in the house to WiFi, you may notice that the internet slows down a bit. Mu-mimo can do something about that. This new technology standard is featured in more and more routers and can drastically increase the internet speed in the home.

In recent months, some routers have been announced and appeared that support mu-mimo. But what exactly is that, what’s in it for you and does your WiFi router need it? In this article we provide an overview of what this technology standard entails and what it can do for you. The goal of the inventors of the technology is to revolutionize the Wi-Fi standard. Whether that will work is still the question – but as it looks now, things are definitely going in the right direction.

Share internet connection

You may have already noticed it at home. When you have a lot of devices connected to the WiFi network, someone is bothered by a slow connection. It may not always be noticeable, but somewhere there is a data congestion, so some devices have to wait their turn before they can send and receive data. That’s because today’s routers only communicate with one device at a time. If you stream content to your PC, then you cannot stream content to your TV, for example.

If you now think: “That’s not right, because we do stream to multiple devices at the same time”, then you are not wrong. It is indeed true that several devices are connected to your WiFi router at the same time (why else do you have such a thing at home?). Older routers, as it were, distribute the connection over the devices that require attention at that moment. For example, a piece of data is sent to your PC and shortly afterwards to your television. That happens very quickly, so you don’t have to notice much, as it were.

The higher the bandwidth, the less you will notice it at home. Because if a lot of data can be shared per second, then many devices can do the things you order faster. That could therefore be a solution to an ever-increasing problem, but not everyone in the Netherlands (or other parts of the world) has access to high-speed internet. It is therefore great that hardware manufacturers are still thinking along and come up with new technologies. Like mu-mimo, for example.

We now use su-mimo

If you’ve just bought a wireless router, chances are that it offers support for su-mimo. This abbreviation stands for Single-User Multiple Input Multiple Output and thus enables a router to communicate with one device at a time. Su-mimu is part of the standard 802.11n. All routers that support that standard support su-mimu. These routers therefore ensure that the devices take turns receiving data. And that process does not stop until the data transfer is complete.

The number of simultaneous data streams is limited by the minimum amount of antennas on the router. If you have two, two data streams can occur simultaneously; if you have four, there are four. The more devices you have connected to a router with few antennas, the slower the data transfer is possible. Suppose you want to stream video in Full HD on four devices via a router with two antennas, then you will undoubtedly see an image on two televisions that will not even achieve full HD or HD ready.

This is mu-mimo

And this is where mu-mimo comes in handy. This abbreviation stands for Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output. This new standard must become very big in the future. This technology must offer the solution to the limitation of su-mimo. Where this technology can be described as a shop that can only send data packets by truck over one road, mu-mimo has access to several trucks and several roads, which can work much more specifically than before.

A router with mu-mimo on board therefore sends data over multiple connections, and not just one. As a result, there is little delay on the route from router to device. Mu-mimo enables the router to distribute data better, as the device does not have to prioritize one device over another every microsecond. However, this does not mean that you can connect an unlimited number of devices to such a router. Indications make it clear how many transfers can take place simultaneously.

You should know this about mu-mimo

Those designations are 2 × 2, 3 × 3 and 4 × 4. Those figures mean, if we use 4 × 4 as an example, that such a router can handle up to four devices in terms of data distribution, without any delay on the line. If you connect more than four to it, it automatically switches back to su-mimo and you can therefore notice that there is a delay. In addition, you should also take into account that the technology standard can only be found on routers with support for 802.11ac. The technology really needs to be built in by a router manufacturer.

Anyway, then you have a new router, with 802.11ac on board, and you see that mu-mimo is supported. Fine, but then you’re still not there. You also need devices that support mu-mimo. Because this technology only works when the transmitter and receiver are on the same line, otherwise the kite will not fly. As you can read, there are a number of advantages to mu-mimo (especially the faster internet will probably convince people quickly), but there are also some disadvantages to the technology.

Downside of mu-mimo

In addition to the above drawbacks (all devices must support mu-mimo, otherwise it won’t work), there is another big drawback: the cost. You should not only replace your router, but possibly also your laptop and all your other devices in the house. More and more mu-mimo devices have appeared in recent months, but the devices you use now probably don’t have that support built in. So there are, for the time being, a lot of costs involved.

Moreover, the technology is still very limited at the moment. When you buy the most comprehensive (and probably most expensive) version of a mu-mimo router, you can only give four devices access to the enhanced network connection. If you link more devices, the router switches back to su-mimo and then you have lost the advantages of the router, as it were. Most people have a smartphone and a laptop and that is already on two devices – then the rest of the household has to add.

In addition, mu-mimo only offers advantages in terms of downloading. Yes, you will be able to achieve faster download speeds, but nothing will change when it comes to uploading. You also do not get the maximum benefit from mu-mimo when there are many devices in one room (the technology works best if the devices are spread out). Finally, we have this: if you have a problem, it is more difficult to find out exactly what is causing it. You will search your router’s settings more than once than you do now.

Should you invest in mu-mimo now?

If you like to keep up with recent technological advancements and find the advantages outweigh the disadvantages (that is, you only use a few devices at a time, while the other devices do nothing with the internet), then it is worth investing now. But for now it seems that mu-mimo is mainly intended as a means to help Wi-Fi signals in the right direction and you can see this as an intermediate step for a true, broad solution for the slow internet in the home. For now, your old WiFi router is still sufficient.