Apr 08, 2014

How much additional range can be expected from a beamforming router?

Some new routers tout their inclusion of “beamforming.” How much does this really improve the range of a wireless router? Is it just a catchy tagline (“Blast processing!!!) or is it worth paying a premium for?

All about beamforming, the faster Wi-Fi you didn't know you needed

" Wireless routers (or access points) and wireless adapters that don’t support beamforming broadcast data pretty much equally in all directions. For a mental picture, think of a lamp without a shade as the wireless router: The bulb (transmitter) radiates light (data) in all directions.

Devices that support beamforming focus their signals toward each client, concentrating the data transmission so that more data reaches the targeted device instead of radiating out into the atmosphere. Think of putting a shade on the lamp (the wireless router) to reduce the amount of light (data) radiating in all directions. Now poke holes in the shade, so that concentrated beams of light travel to defined locations (your Wi-Fi clients) in the room. "
Beamforming is becoming more and more common with 802.11ac equipment, and has some measurable benefits. Some 802.11n routers implemented a version of beamforming called implicit beamforming, with mixed results. 802.11ac beamforming is explicit beamforming, which means the receiver and transmitter are constantly communicating back and forth, and it has better performance than implicit beamforming. I don’t know if I can give you a measurement in increased range with beamforming because there are too many environmental variables, but independent tests suggest that you can expect about a 3dB boost in signal strength. That’s a clear improvement, but it may not be as much as you might be hoping for.

Here is a good source if you want to learn more about 802.11ac networks - http://chimera.labs.oreilly.com/books/1234000001739/ch05.html

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