Wireless routers are about to get a lot faster thanks to the Wi-Fi Alliance. The group, which certifies Wi-Fi enabled product interoperability around the world, is expanding its Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac spec to include more features like Multi-user Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO) and support for four spatial streams.
If you don't know what any of that means, just know that Wi-FI CERTIFIED ac routers will be a lot faster and better at "talking" with multiple devices. MU-MIMO routers offer the benefit of allowing routers to have "conversations" with multiple devices at the same time.
Older routers can only communicate with one device at a time, but at such a high rate of speed that it's imperceptible to users. But, if you ever noticed your network slowing down or even dropping altogether when too many devices were downloading data, that's because the router couldn't keep up with all the devices. MU-MIMO solves that.
A better Wi-Fi future
Additionally, the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac spec will include support for 80 to 160 MHz channels, which means potentially doubling wireless speeds. The updated spec will also expand 5 GHz channel support, making more efficient use of the spectrum. Expect to see less interference and congestion.
Last but not least, the new ac spec will include support for up to four spatial streams. This means Wi-FI CERTIFIED ac routers can transmit multiple data streams simultaneously from different antennas to increase data speeds. Look for "4x4" in a router's specs to see if it supports a quartet of streams.
Still confused about these new Wi-Fi technologies? Check out our Wi-Fi explainer.
All of this means little now, but the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac standard will eventually make it to the routers you'll be buying in the future. As we connect more and more devices to our home networks, we'll need routers that can keep up, which is precisely why we need these new specs and features.
There are already routers on the market with these features like the new ASUS RT-AC87U flagship router. Yes, they're expensive, but the price will go down as Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac routers become the norm.
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