Beamforming is a form of signal distribution that is part of the 802.11ac wireless network standard – used in Wi-Fi Internet routers. The technique uses directional transmissions to improve bandwidth connection and increase its range.
However, to better understand how Beamforming works, it’s worth taking two steps back and understanding how wireless networking works without it.
Wi-Fi Internet routers and other wireless interfaces that are not equipped with beamforming systems transmit data evenly in all directions, such as a pole. For better comparison, we can also use a hanging lamp in the ceiling: the lamp is the router that illuminates with data in all the directions.
What is Beamforming?
The devices that support Beamforming do what to many people would be the obvious: instead of transmitting a signal to an entire area, in the expectation of reaching a target within it – without considering obstacles – concentrates the signal on its target.
Following the rationale of the lamp, it is as if the Beamforming placed a cone around the lamp to direct the light and prevent it from dissipating in all directions.
If the receiving device also supports Beamforming, it can exchange information with the router about its positions to determine the best path.
It means that Beamforming can improve consumption on wireless networks and increase range. As an immediate result, you can improve the quality of Netflix video streaming and other bandwidth-sensitive and latency-sensitive broadcasts.
- Improve/increase Wi-Fi coverage and reduce dead spots;
- Provides stable Wi-Fi connection for voice and video transmission;
- Better Wi-Fi throughput;
- Reduces unnecessary radio interference.
Beamforming is only possible because it uses transmitters and receivers with MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) technology that sends and receives data using multiple antennas to transfer more data at the same time. The technology has come in the 802.11n standard for optimal performance, the router and receivers must support it.
Thus a natural radio wave phenomenon called multipath is reproduced, wherein the transmitted information reaches the receiving antenna several times at different angles, increasing the receiver’s signal-capturing power, allowing the antennas to combine data streams arriving from different ways and moments.
Why did not we use Beamforming before?
Not always simple concepts are easy to offer to the general public, especially when it comes to price. In recent years, beamforming has become a common feature in the most sophisticated fifth-generation Wi-Fi routers based on the current 802.11ac standard. Beamforming did not exist “from nowhere”, it only became popular.
The technique was optional in the earlier 802.11n standard. Meanwhile, the Wi-Fi 6 (or sixth generation) 802.11ax is set to arrive in 2019. In the fifth generation, the IEEE did not specify exactly how the Beamforming technique should be implemented and the router would use a version that the Wi interface -Fi from another device did not recognize: crash!
This has changed and now manufacturers are not required to work with beamforming, but if they decide to do so they need to follow all the specs to work.
If you are looking for a new Wi-Fi router, it may be interesting to filter the searches by one that supports the Beamforming technique. Check the specifications in the product box or on the manufacturer’s website. There are various models and prices on the market.