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What is MU-MIMO in Wireless Communication & Why Do You Need It in Wireless Routers?

MU-MIMO

When buying wireless routers, you must have come across the term MU-MIMO. But do you know what it is? Or what role does it play in wireless routers?

MU-MIMO is short for Multiple User – Multiple Input, Multiple Output. It is also known as MIMO. It is a key technology behind the development of next-generation wireless networks.

This technology is commonly used to connect Wi-Fi routers to multiple devices at the same time. It might sound complicated to you, but it is a very useful technique when it comes to multiple devices trying to connect to the same network simultaneously.

It is a part of the 802.11ac Wave 2 wireless protocol, which was finalized in 2015 by Wi-Fi Alliance.

If you want a deeper insight into this technology and learn how it works, you should give this article a read.

What is MU-MIMO?

MU-MIMO is an important aspect of wireless technology and is supported by endpoint devices and routers. When you connect more than one device to your home Wi-Fi, it reduces the network speed.

This happens because most routers are capable of communicating with only one device at a time. This is called a single-user or SU-MIMO router.

In this case, each device has to wait for its turn to receive and send data from the internet. But it takes longer when there is more than one device connected to the router. This is where the MU-MIMO comes into the picture. It takes single-user MIMO (SU-MIMO) to the next level.

MIMO was developed to help connect multiple devices to a single access point at the same time. This was done by increasing the number of antennas in a Wi-Fi router.

In simple words, MIMO enables a wireless router to communicate with several devices simultaneously. Doing so speeds up the network and reduces the time each device has to wait for a signal.

In today’s time, almost every household has more than 7-8 devices battling for bandwidth at the same time. But with the help of MIMO technology, you can drastically improve your Wi-Fi experience.

This technology is also referred to as AC Wave 2 or Next-Gen AC. The AC part refers to the 802.11ac protocol. Just so you know MIMO doesn’t support any standard lower than the mentioned protocol.

In the beginning, the MIMO was supported by only access points and routers. But nowadays, it is supported by several endpoint devices as well.

What are the MU-MIMO Technology Benefits? 

MIMO has several advantages over SU-MIMO. It supports demanding online activities such as online gaming, video streaming, and others. A MIMO-based device can send and receive signals to and from different sources at once. In other words, it gives you a true multi-user wireless experience.

The main benefits of MIMO technology are:

1. Supports Multi-user Wireless Communication

The whole purpose of MIMO is to allow multiple endpoint devices to connect to a single access point simultaneously. It is designed to facilitate a true multi-user wireless communication experience.

2. Complements Beamforming

Beamforming can be described as a signal processing technique that focuses electromagnetic signals towards a specific user or target area. By doing so, it helps expand the signal range, reduce frequency interference, and improve the overall transmission speeds.

3. Reduces Network Buffering and Lags

Another big advantage is that it makes your network faster. It increases the transmission speed by reducing network lagging and buffering. This is done by dividing or breaking up the network bandwidth and directing it to all the connected devices. This enables it to support high downstream applications.

4. Reduces BER

BER stands for bit error rate, which can be reduced with the help of MIMO through the application of signal processing algorithms. This in turn helps improve signal quality, optimize data transmission routes, and expand reach.

5. Supports other MIMO Technologies

It also supports other MIMO-based technologies to include cooperative net-MIMO with distributed antennas from base stations, network routers, and endpoint devices. This way it improves the overall network performance.

6. Reliable Signal

It provides a constant, reliable signal even when there are a plethora of devices connected to the same network simultaneously.

7. Boosts Network Capacity

It can easily boost network capacity by enabling access points to handle demanding online activities like gaming and streaming. It reduces network latency, so you can enjoy things like video calls, classes, webinars, and more.

How Does MU-MIMO Technology Work in Wireless Devices?

First of all, the MU-MIMO technology was created to support environments where multiple devices try to connect to a single network simultaneously.

When multiple devices battle to access the router at the same time, it results in congestion. This happens because router services are based on a first-come, first-service protocol. So if the first device is connected, the other devices will have to wait for their turn.

But MIMO has the power to transform the way devices connect to a wireless network. It allows multiple devices to communicate with a single access point, without reducing speed or causing network congestion.

This technology is designed to work with a downlink wireless connection, so it can allow multiple devices to communicate to the network at the same time. 

To understand how MIMO works, you need to first understand its working principle. For MIMO to work, both the access point and device must have multiple, identical radio antenna chains that are physically separated.

Let’s say, an access point that can send radiofrequency on one stream and receive it on another is 1×1. But a 2×2 device supports up to two streams in each direction, a 3×3 device supports three streams, and so on. A device capable of supporting more streams will always be compatible with a device that supports fewer streams. However, the device with fewer streams will limit the performance.

A transmitting radio chain sends a spatial stream that is reconstructed by the receiver’s radio chain. In MIMO, each radio chain transmits a spatial stream in the same frequency channel as the transmitter. This stream is received by each antenna on each of its antenna chains. The receiver can then reconstruct the original streams.

Transmit Beamforming

Beamforming is another important thing related to MU-MIMO technology. It focuses the same spatial stream on multiple antennas and thus, expanding range. 

MIMO leverages the power of beamforming, a feature of 11ax and 11ac that focuses signal towards the target device. It channels the signal to connected devices, instead of random direction. This way the signal is used more efficiently, which in turn enables MIMO to expand the Wi-Fi range and speed.

Instead of transmitting signals around an entire area, an antenna sends radio signals from a single location to multiple endpoints. This helps it to create faster, stronger, and better wireless communication.

Types of MU-MIMO

Now that you know how MU-MIMO works, let’s talk about the types. Yes, there is more than one type of MU-MIMO and each of them serves a different purpose. This includes:

1. MIMO-MAC

This type of MIMO technology is used as a multiple access channel in uplink environments. In MIMO-MAC, most of the processing work is performed by the receiver itself. Compared to other types, MIMO-MAC requires large levels of uplink capacities.

2. Cross-layer MIMO

This is known to drastically improve the performance of MIMO links. It solves problems that might occur when configuring MIMO.

3. MIMO-BC

This is used in MIMO broadcast channels to provide more throughout.

4. Cooperative MIMO

CO-MIMO makes use of distributed antennas from other users, instead of just using the ones belonging to a terminal.

5. Dirty Paper Coding

This type of MIMO is employed in telecommunications. It allows for efficient data transmission through a channel and that too without interference.

Which Types of Wi-Fi Routers Support MU-MIMO?

The MU-MIMO technology is available on all modern Wi-Fi routers as well as mesh Wi-Fi systems, that came after the 802.11ac Wave 2 protocol. After testing a bunch of different routers and Wi-Fi mesh systems, we have found the devices listed below to be the best.

  1. Premium: ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5C300, ASUS RT-AC86U, TP-LINK AC3200, TP-LINK DECO M5, and TP-LINK ARCHER C5400.
  2. Mid-Range: LINKYSYS EA7500 v2, ASUS BLUE CAVE, and TP-LINK ARCHER C2600.
  3. Low-End: TP-LINK ARCHER C5 v4, ASUS RT-AC1200G, and TP-LINK ARCHER C1200.

Final Words

Modern homes have a plethora of devices that require constant Wi-Fi access. Buying an MU-MIMO-based router can be advantageous to you in various ways. Unlike SU-MIMO, it can handle multiple devices at the same time, without causing network congestion. You can use a MIMO-based router even with devices that don’t support MIMO. But to get faster download speeds, you need devices with MIMO support. When buying new gadgets like smartphones, computers, etc., make sure that it is compatible with the 802.11ac protocol. Also, they should support MIMO transfers.

If you have more than 7 or 8 devices at home, it is recommended you get an MU-MIMO-based router. This will provide you with a true multi-user wireless communication experience at home. But make sure that you get the router from a reputable brand.

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