MU-MIMO: What It is and How to Know if a Router Supports

What is MU-MIMO?

MIMO stands for Multiple Input, Multiple Output. It is a system developed to achieve higher transmission rates in wireless networks and is the result of the constant evolution of wireless technology, especially Wi-Fi.

It consists of using multiple antennas to transmit the data of a network, and more the number of antennas, the faster and more efficient the connection of the various devices connected. The technology is divided into SU-MIMO and MU-MIMO, respectively for a single user (Single User) and multiple users (Multi-User).

MU-MIMO refers to multiple users or devices, connected to the same router, using several data inputs and outputs simultaneously, without damaging the connection.

How does MU-MIMO work?

Older routers, before the implementation of MIMO priests, could only send and receive data in one direction. Thus, they could only communicate with one device connected to the Wi-Fi network at a time, no matter how many others were also connected.

Think of one tap and four glasses, one for each connected device. When one of them is receiving or sending content (for example, you are watching movies via streaming on your PC), the connection is prioritized for this gadget, that is, this cup is going to get the water first.

The other devices stay on hold, and if one of them makes a similar request (someone on the TV in the room also decides to turn on the video game and play online), the router will have to intermediate the transmission, so that it doesn’t look like the connection is being split. Or, the person on the tap will fill a little bit of both glasses at a time. Although the user doesn’t notice the interruptions, this is how routers work.

In a MU-MIMO system, each antenna of the router would be in charge of transmitting a different data to each connected user (device). Depending on the configuration, it can have two or three antennas for transmission, and another two or three for data reception. Thus, one pair would be dedicated to the PC, and another to the video game, without interrupting the connection.

With a MU-MIMO router, the user would no longer have connection lags during an online game, caused mainly by the competition of devices in the Wi-Fi network.

Which routers use MU-MIMO?

MU-MIMO technology has been present since 2016, when the first compatible routers arrived, or the manufacturers began to implement the feature in their new products.

In general, all these new routers are aimed at the gamers, so they have very attractive designs; another feature of a MU-MIMO router is the number of antennas, which vary between four and eight, according to their configuration.

However, the factor that most distinguishes a MU-MIMO router from others is its price. The simplest models, from manufacturers such as TP-Link and Trendnet, range from $50 to $100, while the most powerful, from brands such as ASUS, D-Link and others, can vary from $150 to $500, being costly for most common users.

Anyway, with time the new communication standard should become more popular, and present even in the simplest router models, since the MU-MIMO is a natural evolution of Wi-Fi technology. However, this should still take some time.