What Is Wi-Fi Beamforming Technology?

Wi-Fi Beamforming Technology

Beamforming technology sounds like a simple improvement on traditional omnidirectional Wi-Fi technology, but it involves a good deal of equipment standardization to work effectively. So what exactly is Wi-Fi beamforming technology? What does it mean to have beamforming for 802.11ac standardized devices, and how does electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) testing equipment help ensure the individual components involved in beamforming will function properly?

smartphone using wi-fi

Traditional Router and Wi-Fi Operation

In a system without beamforming technology, a router sends out an omnidirectional signal in the form of radio waves. Depending on the location of devices such as laptops, tablets and printers, the routerís signal ó if strong enough ó enables Internet and network connectivity. Of course, a deviceís location in relation to the general Wi-Fi hotspot has a large impact on the strength of the received signal and, consequently, on the speed and performance of the device.

What Is Beamforming Technology?

Now, imagine a signal with the ability to focus and intentionally transmit itself in the direction of the intended receiving device. This, in theory, is what Wi-Fi beamforming is all about. In simple terms, it offers everyone from students in dorm rooms to homeowners with large families a way of getting stronger, faster and longer range Wi-Fi signals.

Better Wi-Fi reception is something everyone wants ó from people living in apartments where other networks might be creating interference to homeowners with dead spots in their wireless networks. Thatís why beamforming technology is popular across all Wi-Fi consumer levels.

EMC Testing Equipment and Beamforming Implementation

For electronics equipment manufacturers, the early beginnings of beamforming technology go back to The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers ó or IEEE ó issuing the 802.11n specification. However, this standard didnít explicitly state how beamforming technology should be implemented. Under this specification, a router and a laptop could be using different techniques to accomplish beamforming, resulting in incompatibility.

It took the eventual issuance of the 802.11ac specification to finally standardize the method of beamforming used in Wi-Fi equipment. Now, as more equipment moves toward becoming beamforming compatible, we have seen a surge to design, manufacture and successfully market 802.11ac standardized electronic devices.

To help in this endeavor, the following EMC testing equipment is vital:

  • Horn antennas: Used in test labs to measure field strength for emissions testing.
  • Spectrum analyzers: Used in test labs to measure emissions from the Equipment Under Test ó or EUT.
  • Preamplifiers: Used in test labs to increase system sensitivity and system-to-noise ratio.
  • Comb generators: Offer an effective and efficient way to verify that a radiated emissions test site and the individual components of the measurement system are all in proper working order.

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