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Beamforming WiFi technology is something that is widely advertised with modern wifi routers. This technology promises to make wireless communication faster, improve the wifi reception and reduce interference.
What exactly is ‘Beamforming’ technology and how does it help in making the wifi communication faster is something that we are going to talk about in this post today.
What is Beamforming and How Does it Work?
In simple words, beamforming technology enables a WiFi signal to be only broadcasted in one specific direction.
Generally, without the beamforming WiFi technology, the wifi router will broadcast a WiFi signal in all directions. So, let’s say you only have one Smartphone to connect to, the WiFi router is broadcasting signals in all directions. The signal then hits your Smartphone is acknowledged, and you get the WiFi connection. However, the other broadcasts land up nowhere. Think about the wasted bandwidth and how this problem can be overcome.
This is where beamforming comes into the picture. With beamforming technology, the router knows where your devices like laptops and smartphones are, and it will broadcast a strong WiFi signal only in the device-specific direction.
With beamforming, a strong WiFi signal is only broadcasted in the direction on your devices, which helps in a stronger and better WiFi signal which can travel a long-range. Since the broadcast is meant for specific devices, it is also very optimal.
Here’s a quick visualization of the beamforming concept, courtesy of Netgear, in order for you to understand the technology in a better way.
As you can see, with beamforming wifi technology, you get a better WiFi signal and reception, hence it makes the WiFi communication faster.
802.11ac vs 802.11n – Beamforming WiFi Routers
Beamforming existed before the 802.11ac standard. It was part of 802.11n, but there was a caveat. In order for beamforming to work, both the router and the client, that is your smartphone or laptop needed to support beamforming in the exact same way. Since there was no standard, router manufacturers were free to invent and update their own technology and the same applied to the device manufacturers.
Essentially, there was no guarantee that the devices would be compatible with each other. In order to use this feature, technically you would need to have both the devices from the same manufacturer.
With 802.11ac, there is a standard for beamforming to work and all the devices that offer support for 802.11ac will work with each other. To put this into perspective, your 802.11ac enabled router knows the relative position of your 802.11ac enabled smartphone or laptop. This enables seamless WiFi connectivity between them.
Implicit vs Explicit Beamforming
Everything that we have discussed so far is how ‘explicit beamforming’ works. There is, however, something called an ‘implicit beamforming’ as well.
Now, a router that offers Explicit beamforming as a feature should also offer Implicit beamforming. Implicit beamforming is a beamforming feature that enables an 802.11ac router to improve the wireless signal for older devices that support the 802.11n, g and b wireless standards.
Theoretically, this technology aims to improve the WiFi connectivity for old devices, however, in practice you won’t see much of a difference. This is an added feature, you can say, that brings the beamforming advantage to your old devices as well.
MU-MIMO and Beamforming
MU-MIMO stands for Multi-user, Multiple-input, Multiple output. This technology enables multiple users to access a wireless network at the same time, that is multiple users can connect to multiple antennas of the same router.
Beamforming technology plays a vital role in supporting the MU-MIMO technology which is gaining popularity with the rollout of the 802.11ax WiFi routers. MU-MIMO uses beamforming wifi technology to ensure that all the connected clients are efficiently targeted by the router.
Now, you are more likely to encounter and make use of the beamforming technology in your local WiFi setup. But now, with 5G network rollout, that’s going to change.
Radio frequency that 5G uses is between 30 and 300 GHz. This wide-area network transmits data very quickly. With this quick data transfer though, arises the problem of interference which is caused due to physical obstacles. To resolve this interference caused by physical obstacles, a lot of different technologies are needed like massive MIMO, smaller cells, and beamforming of course.
The way telecom vendors are pushing 5G, we will very soon be using beamforming technology day in and day out.
Does Beamforming Make Wireless Communication Faster?
Beamforming has become a standard on all the 802.11ac wifi routers. It is a good selling point and sits along with added features like the MU-MIMO technology and the Tri-Band WiFi.
Beamforming does work and it certainly improves the WiFi range and improves the connectivity. You may need to shell out some additional money to buy an 802.11ac enabled WiFi router, but it’s worth it if you have new client devices that are able to make use of the beamforming technology.
However, if you have old devices that don’t support the 802.11ac wireless, it might be a good idea to buy a cheaper router sans the beamforming features.
What do you think about beamforming WiFi technology? Do let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Hi, I’m Ian. I’m a Cisco Certified Network Professional and I’m in love with networking. On this blog, I write how-to guides and review Wireless Routers and other network devices. You can check out my website below.