The wireless router has become a ubiquitous piece of household technology; silently sending and receiving broadband data through the ether, to and from our connected devices, from whichever shelf or cupboard they’ve been abandoned to. Over the years we’ve become so utterly reliant and completely used to these small plastic data servers that we rarely acknowledge the work they are doing, or even know where in the house or office they may be.
In fact, the only time we ever need to know a router’s whereabouts is when we need to perform the inevitable restart when the connection seems to have failed. This ritual, that seems to be becoming more common, is hardly the router’s fault; the workload they are placed under these days is huge but it’s the way a standard router manages multiple devices that could be to blame.
It may come as a surprise to some that most routers don’t actually service simultaneously connected devices at the same time. Just about every router currently available interchanges between the devices it’s supplying wireless data to and only ever sends data to one device at a time. The rate at which the router chops and changes between these devices is so fast as to be just about imperceptible.
However, as the number of devices a single router has to provide data to continues to increase, a new technology that will make life easier for the router and subsequently the user is now emerging.
Mutli-user, multiple-input and multiple-output technology (MU-MIMO) allows a device like a router to handle multiple data-streams all at once. With broadband becoming faster and faster, there is no longer any need for devices to be served data individually and as the connection to all devices will be uninterrupted, consistency and reliability of data transfer will be optimised.
The technology has now been certified and will soon be introduced across a range of products – currently there are only one or two routers and dongles on the market that support MU-MIMO and it doesn’t look like it will be rolled out on devices whole-sale before the start of 2018. This is partly because the technology itself relies on the 802.11ac protocol which most routers and wireless devices are not yet equipped to decode.
When they are, however, it will mean that, for the first time, multiple devices in the home and office will be able to use a single wireless data source at exactly the same time; meaning much greater connection reliability and, ultimately, better speeds.