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What is MIMO?

Short for Multiple-input-multiple-output communications, is an abstract mathematical model for multi-antenna communication systems where the transmitter has multiple antennas capable of transmitting independent signals and the receiver is equipped with multiple receive antennas.

During the last few years, MIMO technology has attracted a lot of attention in the area of wireless communications, since significant increases in throughput and range are possible without any increase in bandwidth or overall transmit power expenditure. In general, MIMO technology increases the spectral efficiency (the number of information bits you can transmit per second of time and per Hertz of bandwidth) of a wireless communication system by exploiting the space domain (since multiple antennas are physically separated in space).

Wireless MIMO communication can be sub-divided into three main categories, spatial multiplexing for enhancing the peak data transmission rate, transmit diversity methods such as space-time coding for enhancing the robustness of the transmission, and beamforming technologies for improving received signal gain and reducing interference to other users. However, these MIMO transmission techniques are not mutually exclusive, it is possible to construct a MIMO system with both spatial multiplexing and diversity benefits.

For those who need faster speeds, try 802.11g routers that have been enhanced with MIMO technology which use an array of antennas for Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output transmissions, extending range and speed. They're sold under brand names such as Belkin, D-Link and Cisco-Linksys.

See how the 802.11n standard is different than current generations of Wi-Fi.

You might question if you need faster Wi-Fi. If all you do is surf the Web and don't wander too far from the router, the speed of the Internet connection coming in to your cable or DSL modem is probably the limiting factor, not the connection between your router and laptop. But if you have more than one computer and like to move files between them wirelessly, the router's speed will be important.

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Revised: 07/05/2011