It seems like there is always some revolutionary new WiFi or network product hitting the market. You may ask yourself if it’s really worth upgrading right now, especially if you just purchased new equipment a few years ago. The answer to that question varies in each case, but today we’re discussing MU-MIMO and the features included.

What is MU-MIMO exactly?

MU-MIMO is a feature build into modern routers and access points. It’s the next level of “MIMO”, which stands for “Multiple Input, Multiple Output”. The “MU” in MU-MIMO introduces “Multi User”, leaving us at “Multi User – Multi Input, Multiple Output”.

Now that the fun acronyms are over, let’s look at the differences between MIMO and the newer MU-MIMO.
MIMO: When your network has a high number of users, MIMO can only push the internet to one device at a time, which results in higher latency times and longer loading. For example, if you’re waiting in line to check out at the grocery store and there are 4 customers and only 1 cashier, the cashier can only check out one customer at a time, which will result in a long wait time for you. You are essentially taking turns with the other customers.

MU-MIMO: On a network with an equally high amount of users, MU-MIMO can push the internet to multiple devices at the same time (hence the “Multiple User” in the name). This of course results in less waiting time for you and everyone else on the network. Using the same example, MU-MIMO calls 3 more cashiers to help ring up the 4 customers. You now can all check out at the same time instead of taking turns.

However, MU-MIMO can work differently based off the layout and positioning of the devices on your network. Devices that are nearby each other will most likely use the same “cashier”, while devices that are spread out will check out with the other “cashier”. You still may be waiting your turn if you are close enough to other devices that are pulling internet as well.

Actual Implementation and Restrictions:

MU-MIMO may be sounding like a perfect addition to your network at this point, so let’s look at some noteworthy points about it’s limitations and what you’re really signing up for if you purchase a MU-MIMO enabled device.

  • MU-MIMO supports multiple streams for multiple users, but not endless streams. Typically, current support is for around 3 or 4 streams. Don’t expect a small room with 20 people to have 20 individual internet streams.
  • MU-MIMO is for downlink connections only. Uploading 4 videos to the internet on one MU-MIMO supported router won’t give you an extra advantage. It’s main purpose is for extra downloading of content.
  • MU-MIMO works exclusively with 5GHz networks. Any 2.4GHz device will not be able to take advantage of the MU-MIMO processes.

What do we think?

MU-MIMO doesn’t necessarily have any negatives to real life implementation, it just has a few limitations. This technology can still improve the quality of life of your network, and allow you to get more devices and users online without massive expansion.

You can decide for yourself if it’s worthy of a “right now” installation for your business, or if it’s something to consider when you’re ready to upgrade. This feature is implemented on many modern day routers and access points, and is becoming more increasingly common with time.

If you’re working on your network and have questions about MU-MIMO, supported devices, or anything else IT related, don’t hesitate to leave a comment and ask us.