Enable Beamforming On or Off

Beamforming is an advanced router function that boost the performance of your wireless network. The purpose of this simple beamforming guide is to help you know when and when not to enable the beamforming options on your router. And a simple rule of thumbs for you to follow when implementing advanced router settings.

Please note that this is a “layman”‘s general guide that gives a broad explanation for how it works, we will not go over technical terms or comparisons with complex numbers or charts. We offer simple and practical examples and suggestions to help you setup your wifi.

What does Beamforming Wifi Mean and Effect

The router’s signal broadcast technology is generally a uniform transmission across space in all directions. This default method of router signal transmission means that there are plenty of signal wasted when they are sent to directions with no devices.

In earlier router setups, some routers allow you to move its antenna around to manually manipulate and steer some of that signal transmission direction. By changing the antenna the “right way”, you improve the performance of the data sent and received.

With beamforming, imagine that a software inside the router that constantly reads the direction of the data transmitted between your devices and the access point or router. Then the router makes best estimates on where to move around its “antenna” so that the signal is more focused towards the direction of the device.

The beamforming technology allows much better data transmissions boost in the mid-long range device setups. However, you will see very little to no additional performance boost effect in short range situations because the signal is strong to begin with. In some cases, you may actually get worse performance in short range as a disadvantage due to incorrect direction estimate. It is mainly caused by signals bouncing off objects or other physical interference.

Beamforming Types in Wifi Technology Background

Without going details and timelines on the history and background. Here is the basic of it for Beamforming in Wifi history.

Universal Beamforming or Implicit Beamforming
Beamforming is an idea that is first implemented in 802.11n for wireless N networks. It was “optional” and never enforced and there was no uniform standard. Some vendors created their versions of it and not all of them are compatible. This earlier version of beamforming is called Universal Beamforming or Implicit Beamforming.

This is more of a router based function, the router is able to estimate the direction of the data sent and received, and makes adjustments to its internal antenna to boost the downlink speed only.

The Implicit Beamforming is more or less phased out in 802.11ac. However, you can still see it as an option with the AC standard wireless routers. In wireless AC, beamforming is now made as a standard with Explicit Beamforming.

802.11 AC Beamforming or Explicit Beamforming
The Explicit Beamforming requres both the Router and your device’s wireless adapter to support Beamforming technology. This means that they can come to a mutual understanding of the channel and direction of the transmission. Imagine that the router and devices all know the direction of the signals that they need to send information to.

Then the signals that they transmit now looks like a “beam” instead of uniform signals in space. The Universal Beamforming or 802.11 AC beamforming is now a standard in AC networks, both the router and devices have to support it so it is much more compatible.

When to Enable Beamforming On or Off in Wifi

With all the information presented earlier, we will now offer some simple and easy to understand guidelines to help you configure your wireless router’s Beamforming options.

The advice for “General Usage” applies to both Explicit Beamforming and Implicit Beamforming.

General Usage
With the understanding that Beamforming typically improve your medium-long range performance. You should only consider to enable beamforming when you have medium-big sized house. The enabling of beamforming can help your signal strength at previously harder to reach spaces like edge of the house or next to the closet.

However, with a smaller space like small apartment or studio, the performance boost can be really limited, so you should test and experiment to see if they are beneficial or not.

When to Enable Explicit Beamforming or 802.11ac Beamforming
Because Explicit Beamforming is only applicable for when both the Device and router support 802.11 AC standard. You should only enable this option when you have the devices on your network with AC wireless standard.

It should also be noted that some of the N devices may also support Explicit Beamforming, however, they generally have compatibility issues. Your best bet is to turn it on to see if applies to your hardwares.

When to Disable Explicit Beamforming or 802.11ac Beamforming
Since Explicit Beamforming is an option for AC devices (and occasionally N). You should turn them off for the B and G wireless devices that you may still have.

You should also disable Explicit Beamforming when it is causing issues with your Wifi N devices and the AC access point.

When to Enable Implicit Beamforming or Universal Beamforming
Enable Implicit Beamforming whenever Explicit Beamforming does not apply. You should generally test out this option to see if it helps with your mid range signal performances.

When to Disable Implicit Beamforming or Universal Beamforming
Disable this option whenever you can use Explicit Beamforming. Since Explicit beamforming works better than the implicit. If you do run both AC and other wireless level technologies, it may be worthwhile to separate the devices onto different frequencies (such as 2.4 ghz vs 5 ghz). Or even dedicating your older routers for all the non-ac devices.