How Stuff Works – 802.11n and Spatial Multiplexing
This is the third post in my “How Stuff Works” series. The first two posting discussed MIMO and channel bonding. This post looks at another technical improvement that leads to greater speed in 802.11n networks – spatial multiplexing.
It is helpful to take a quick look at a classic 802.11 transmitter.
In this scenario, only one data stream is sent from the transmitter to the receiver (represented by the orange line).
With spatial multiplexing, multiple data streams are transmitted at the same time. They are transmitted on the same channel, but by different antenna. They are recombined at the receiver using MIMO signal processing. This is represented in the diagram above with two spatial streams – an orange colored one and a navy blue colored one.
Spatial multiplexing doubles, triples, or quadruples the data rate depending on the number of transmit antennas. Remember, you may hear three numbers when referring to 802.11n or MIMO networks – the first is the number of transmit antenna, the second is the number of receive antenna, and the third is the number of spatial streams. For example, a 3×3x2 system has two spatial streams.