Earlier in the day, an announcement from the Wi-Fi Alliance came to light highlighting a push for MU-MIMO in the newest iteration of the Wi-Fi certification package. MU-MIMO is a technology that allows a piece of Wi-Fi equipment to communicate with multiple other devices simultaneously. That push has come full circle, with the newest Wi-Fi 802.11ac certification, dubbed Wave 2, featuring MU-MIMO and other newer and lesser-known Wi-Fi technologies. While the certification is not mandatory to produce a Wi-Fi device, having the certification is a badge of honor that retailers and consumers alike tend not to ignore when it comes to deciding what goes on the shelf and in their homes.
While the multi-user and multitasking features as well as increased speed and decreased latency that come with MU-MIMO are the flagship features of the newest certification, that's certainly not all that there is to love for Wi-Fi fans. The new certification suggests support for four spatial streams rather than three, a move that employs fairly new technology to increase the overall speed of a Wi-Fi access point. The maximum bandwidth of channels has also increased from 80MHz to 160MHz, which will see users suffering less "connection splitting" when multiple devices are on a network, and could allow speeds up to twice what current Wi-Fi equipment is capable of. The new standard also adds in more channels for 5GHz connections, pushing them to replace 2.4GHz connections as the mainstream, and allowing users who already utilize 5GHz networks to see higher speeds per device on a shared network.
The new standard focuses largely on multiple users, presumably setting the stage for a Wi-Fi based approach to 5G mobile networks, while simultaneously improving the Wi-Fi experience for current applications. Since the standard is only being released today, only partners will have fully compliant hardware already available, though some features like MU-MIMO are already available on some hardware. The list of partners who have a product out of the gate that fully supports the new standard is limited to MediaTek, Broadcom, Marvell, as well as Qualcomm who states that they believe adoption for MU-MIMO products will increase due to the certification announcement. Compliant products are expected to start hitting retailers as soon as the next few weeks, though they will likely only be compliant remixes of current hardware, at first.