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What is Beamforming and How Does it Work?


Beamforming is a type of radio frequency used to send strong, focused signals to a targeted device. In it, an access point uses multiple antennas to send out the same signal to a specific receiving device. Normally, the signal would spread out in multiple directions from the broadcasting antenna. The overall difference with beamforming is that instead of using a single antenna, multiple are used.

As a result, these signals have a more direct connection which is faster and more reliable. So, beamforming has the potential to make Wi-Fi and 5G better. More on that later.

Beamforming is not a new concept for Wi-Fi networking, but in recent years, it has improved. A lot. Beamforming has also become crucial to 5G networks. But first, let’s look at how beamforming works:

One antenna can broadcast a wireless signal in many directions. But beamforming is the result of using multiple antennas in close proximity to one another. This way, multiple signal waves broadcast at the same time (or almost the exact same time). Layering the signal waves produces an interference that can be both constructive and destructive depending on if it is performed correctly. If beamforming is done correctly, your signal will be strong and focused on where you want it to go. If it isn’t done correctly, inference and potentially a lost signal will occur. These are some of the benefits and limitations to beamforming.

Beamforming Benefits and Limitations

Beamforming can be very beneficial. As mentioned above, beamforming can be both successful and unsuccessful. One of the benefits to beamforming is that it can deliver a high-quality signal to your receiver, overall improving wireless communication. Because it is a laser-focused technique, another benefit is that it can help reduce interference for other people trying to pick up a signal.

Beamforming also has limitations. Because beamforming is a complex technique that requires time, power resources and specific calculations, there’s always the risk of negating its benefits and advantages. Despite this issue, beamforming has improved over the years to be a more affordable technique that consumers can leverage.

Beamforming and Wi-Fi

Beamforming needs Wi-Fi that supports multiple-input multiple out (MIMO) technology to send out the multiple overlapping signals. Here’s where Wi-Fi 6 comes into play:

Now that 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) routers are rolling out, beamforming is also key for supporting the multiuser MIMO (MU-MIMO) feature that these new routers are equipped with. In other words, Wi-Fi 6 routers can communicate using multiple antennas on one router. They use beamforming to make sure the communication is efficiently targeted to each connected device.

To make sure that your router is capable of utilizing this multiple antenna communication, make sure to choose Wi-Fi gear that supports beamforming techniques for your home wireless network.

Beamforming and 5G

While beamforming is most common with local Wi-Fi networks, there is a place for beamforming with 5G, too.

Since 5G uses radio frequencies (30 GHz-300 GHz) to communicate with devices, there is a higher chance of signal interference or difficulty passing through physical objects. This problem can be resolved using strategies like using tons of antennas at a single 5G base station. But beamforming has the ability to solve this issue as well.

There is a good chance that in the foreseeable future we will all be using beamforming in our daily lives. It could be time to get ahead of the pack by researching and updating your home router/gateway today.

Want to learn more about WiFi technology? Stay in-the-know on Wi-Fi networking, changes in the WiFi industry and other developing technologies by following the Actiontec blog. You can also learn more about Wi-Fi networking on Actiontec’s Complete Guide to WiFi Networking.

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