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Ready, test, go! Uncovering the performance advantages of MU-MIMO

Mar 26, 2015

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

For the past year at Qualcomm Atheros, a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, we have been talking about the cool new MU-MIMO technology, which is inherent in the second wave of 11ac Wi-Fi products. And now, MU-MIMO enabled devices are almost here. Consumers will soon start seeing routers and laptops hit the market, with smartphones and consumer electronics following in the summer and fall of 2015, respectively.

With the introduction of MU-enabled products, the new question becomes, how will consumers know which products to buy? Which have the new features and performance they need for their increasingly connected homes? OEMs will, of course, tout the advantages of Qualcomm® MU | EFX technology through their own advertising, in-store promotions and packaging. But also, product reviewers will be publishing the results of performance testing in magazines, blogs and websites.

Qualcomm Atheros recently held a workshop to educate reviewers about the technology and discuss what is different about MU-MIMO device testing. Reviewers had a chance to see a series of demonstrations and get hands-on with some of the devices. Products from Linksys, Acer and Xiaomi were on hand as a sneak peak.

While the advantages of MU-MIMO are expected to significantly enhance Wi-Fi networks, traditional testing won’t cut it. The difference in testing the performance of MU-MIMO is apparent in four ways:

  1. Point-to-point testing determines peak throughput, but doesn’t expose the true performance in real-world scenarios—where multiple devices are competing for shared bandwidth.
  2. New MU testing can reveal the performance benefits as more devices (both new and legacy) connect to a home network.
  3. Smartphones and laptops comprise a majority of Wi-Fi devices (and most of them are single-antenna devices that use 1x1 11ac). With MU-MIMO, even the simplest of devices can achieve performance that was previously reserved for 2x2 configurations.
  4. Currently 11ac specifies downlink MU-MIMO only (versus uplink), so testing should focus on the downstream.
Switching from single-user to multi-user MIMO provides a 2.24x gain in overall performance.

For more information on how to properly review MU-enabled devices, contact Qualcomm Atheros at QCA_PR@qualcomm.com.

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