There are several aspects of radio and wireless networking that make Wi-Fi, LTE and 5G connections faster. However, there is another interesting technique that uses the science of electromagnetic interference and complex signal processing techniques that make Wi-Fi and 5G connections more precise. This technique is called ‘Beamforming‘. While Beamforming is not new to modern science, it can be used in any type of wave, including sound. The same was developed during World War II and has been used in audio engineering for sonar improvements.
Normally, a typical wireless antenna spreads the wireless signal in all directions. But using beamforming technique, the signal is focused towards a specific receiver. The resulting connection is more precise, reliable and faster than the normal one. In simple words, beamforming uses multiple antennas in close proximity broadcasting the same signal with a very little time difference. These waves overlap with each other to form ‘interference‘. In some areas, the interference is ‘constructive’ that effectively makes the signal stronger. While in some areas, it is ‘destructive’ that effectively nullifies or weakens the signal. If this phenomenon is controlled rightly, the signal can be focused towards a specific receiver.
Beamforming techniques have introduced significant improvements in recent incremental upgrades of Wi-Fi (802.11ac). It is also a crucial factor in multiuser-MIMO. MU-MIMO technique is used newest Wi-Fi standard – 802.11ax (or simply Wi-Fi 6). It uses beamforming technique to ensure precise communication between router and each connected device.
While currently, most users will be experiencing beamforming in local Wi-Fi networks irrespective of which Wi-Fi standard their device supports, 5G will be fully utilizing it behind the scenes. Since mmWaves used in 5G radio are more prone to interference, atmospheric attenuation, it will be using several advanced techniques including smart cells, massive MIMO and beamforming to ensure reliable and faster connectivity. This is truly going to transform users’ connectivity experience on mobile.