A new update to WIFi, is set to sharply improve the home hotspot, in 2016. Say hello to MU-MIMO
By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore, February 1 2016: You are working on your laptop and suddenly the powerpoint you are editing, freezes. Why ? Because your children in the other room started downloading a heavy video from YouTube. Familiar scenario? Happens all the time when you use a WiFi router to share a single broadband connection to the home. Wireless hotspots are limited by the technology they harness. The underlying WiFi technology ( called 802.11 a, b, g ,n or ac) that fuels the wireless hotspot at home or office today, can serve only one device at a time. It cycles rapidly from one PC, phone or laptop to the other , creating the illusion that all are being simultaneously served . But when one user gobbles up the gigabytes, other applications grind to a halt. Not any more.
The first devices that harness an exciting new technology were unveiled last month -- by mid 2016 we can expect to see them in India. The WiFi routers we use today, exploit what is called SI MIMO: Single User Multiple In, Multiple Out. That means, while multiple devices can latch on to hotpot, IT only serves one user at a time -- which explains the familiar logjams. The current WiFi standard, 802.11ac has now been updated as 11 ac Wave2 and it enables Multi User or MU MIMO. This means it can serve every user device in the home, simultaneously. No more waiting in queue!
Linksys, says its new Max-Stream series of MU-MIMO-ready routers which we can expect to buy for between Rs 14,000 and Rs 20,000, "function as if multiple devices have their own dedicated router....the whole household can play video games, listen to music, check email, shop, stream movie – all at the same time." A new Wave 2 router alone is not enough; you need a matching wireless adapter at the PC or laptop end. So Linksys has also launched a Max Stream USB adapter for the equivalent of Rs 4000.
Another router leader, TP-Link has gone ahead and announced a MI-MIMO router, the Talon AD7000, that offers the next iteration in data speed beyond 11ac -- that is 11ad . This means serving multiple users at the same time at even higher speeds -- up to 4.6 GBPS.. about 3 times faster than 11ac routers.
Who needs these dizzy speeds? Well, you and I will demand them, as we get used to better and sharper TV -- which is already moving from 2K and HD to 4K and Ultra HD. By end 2016, we can expect dish operators to offer more and more content in 4K -- mostly live sports. This will be useless unless we have the means to share such pixel-rich stuff across the home ... and on our phones. MU-MIMO does just that. Acer has already made 3 models in its Aspire series of notebooks, MU-MIMO-ready as has Motorola with its X series phones. The common factor is a chip solution called Qualcomm Vive. Expect to find Vive under the hood of many more smartphones and tablets this year.
The Indian behind MIMO.... see our story