Telecommunication technology has evolved immensely over the years, mostly from analog to digital. Today, we have technologies like smart devices, 5G cellular, VoIP communications, Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) networks, Dual-Band radio transmissions, Wi-Fi 6, and more, all based on digital communication. There are also rapid improvements in these existing telecommunication technologies. While you likely understand many of these technologies, sometimes it is difficult to get our heads around the underlying workings that make them possible. Today, we will discuss MIMO technology that powers modern Wi-Fi 6 routers to give you a better understanding of it to make informed decisions when deploying Wi-Fi 6 networks. Of course, it is always important to consult expert professionals like Communications Solutions Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida, for the best guidance and support on home and business network deployment.
That being said, let’s dive into Wi-Fi 6 MIMO technology.
What Is Wi-Fi 6 MIMO Technology?
As recently as the late-80s, professionals thought that the 1.44 megabytes of storage on a 3-1/2 inch floppy disk was more than any human would need from a single storage device. Today, even 144 Gigabytes (100,000 times more storage) may seem less for modern users.
While physical, cold storage of digital data may no longer be a huge issue for most people, the ever-increasing data consumption of humans is a challenge. This drives the rising bandwidth demands of most networks, which are often prone to interference and crowding.
MIMO technology is a sort of cure-all solution for this because it increases the throughput between the transmitter and receiver of network devices.
You can think of frequency bandwidth as a way to describe how wide a freeway is. The lanes on the freeway can be spatial streams. To improve space utilization and data throughput, you can either make the existing lanes wide or add more lanes.
Clearly, the latter is simpler for space utilization as it reuses the existing freeway space. In contrast, the former requires additional resources to expand the width of the freeway or the bandwidth.
In networking, you can think of increasing bandwidth as being similarly difficult and requiring additional resources. Hence, increasing spatial streams is a far better option to increase throughout. It is what Wi-Fi 6 offers through MIMO technology, which can increase spatial streams and, therefore, the number of connected devices consuming bandwidth and ever-increasing volumes of data.
How MIMO Technology Works
MIMO stands for “multiple-input multiple-output,” representing multiple antennas used for simultaneous transmission and multiple antennas used for simultaneous reception over a radio channel.
Single antenna systems are called SISO, or single-input single-output. Similarly, you have SIMO systems with a single transmitter antenna and simultaneous multiple receiver antennas (1×2). MISO systems have simultaneous multiple transmitter antennas and a single receiver antenna (2×1).
The multiple transmitter and receiver antennas (2×2) in a MIMO system allow it to provide “multiplexing” and “diversity” (more on these later). This is because it can produce four transmission paths (2×2) simultaneously, compared to a single path in SISO systems (1×1) and two paths in SIMO (1×2) and MISO (2×1) systems.
Generally, more antennas on a receiver and transmitter mean more reliable connectivity, improved link quality, and better throughput.
● SU-MIMO vs. MU-MIMO
Within MIMO technology or systems, you have single-user or SU-MIMO and multiple-user or MU-MIMO. Multiple-user MIMO is what is used in Wi-Fi 6 routers, and it allows these routers to split the bandwidth into individual streams (more lanes on the freeway) with an equal share of the connection.
Depending on the number of streams a Wi-Fi 6 MU-MIMO router can produce, it is categorized as “2×2” for two streams, “3×3” for three streams, or “4×4” for four streams. All Wi-Fi 6 routers and access points (APs) have a limited number of streams they can support. However, this is still more than previous standards or generations of Wi-Fi technology.
● Multiplexing and Spatial Streams
Multiplexing is a data transmission technique that allows MIMO to transmit independent signals from each transmitting antenna. The data is split into two or more independent streams over multiple antennas, also known as spatial streams.
This multiplexing and spatial stream increases as more pairs of transmitter and receiver antennas are added to the MIMO system. A 2×2 MIMO system indicates two transmitter antennas and two receiver antennas, creating two spatial streams.
However, the lower figure in a different configuration, like 2×3 or 3×2, limits the number of spatial streams. So, 2×2 has two streams, and so do 2×3 and 3×2 configurations, whereas 3×3, 3×4, and 4×3 configurations all have three spatial streams.
● Diversities and Space-Time Block Coding (STBC)
At this point, you may be wondering what the use of configurations like 2×3 or 3×2 is, especially when they also support two streams of equal capacity like a 2×2 configuration. The difference is that 2×3 and 3×2 configurations offer diversities, which can be useful.
The same data is transmitted multiple times through multiple antennas, ensuring that the radio signals take different paths to deliver the same data, which will certainly be received at different times on separate antennas.
This is used in a wireless communication technique known as space-time block coding (STBC), and it is capable of exploiting the various received versions of data to improve the reliability and robustness of data transmissions. However, odd configurations of Wi-Fi 6 routers and APs are not commonly available.
Modern Wi-Fi 6 Routers and APs
The most common types of Wi-Fi 6 APs in the market have either 2×2 MIMO configuration or 4×4 MIMO configuration, with the latter offering better applications for enterprise or business use.
A quality Wi-Fi 6 router comes with full eight antennas, and the most advanced Wi-Fi 6 routers support an impressive 8×8 MU-MIMO configuration. This is perhaps the best you can get in terms of a Wi-Fi router, but it is mostly useful for business applications.
MIMO technology, more specifically MU-MIMO, is one of the most important elements that make Wi-Fi 6 so much better than previous generations of Wi-Fi technology. Ultimately, MU-MIMO allows Wi-Fi 6 to communicate with more devices at once.
Previously, Wi-Fi 5 could do the same, but the connected devices could not respond simultaneously like they can with Wi-Fi 6 connectivity. Wi-Fi 6 allows the devices to respond simultaneously because of “multi-user” or MU-MIMO. Moreover, it uses “spatial frequency re-use,” allowing wait-less transmissions of multiple devices on the same radio frequencies.
If you upgrade your older Wi-Fi networks or install a brand new Wi-Fi network for your business, Wi-Fi 6 is the best, future-proof, and most obvious choice for wireless communications. It can create a huge difference in your business wireless networks’ quality, speed, and robustness.
Of course, you should consult the expert professionals at Communications Solutions Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida, for the deployment of Wi-Fi 6 or business networks that suit your needs.
If you want to learn more about Wi-Fi 6, MIMO technology, upgrading your business network, or deploying new ones, Contact Us Today!