Understanding Beamforming

Wed, 09/11/2019 - 16:26

Wireless signal and other RF behavior is one of those things that is so nuanced and bizarre it’s often described by engineers as black magic. The complexity of RF design is legendary among engineered physics. One Redditor explains it this way: “Reality is far more complex than you are led to believe with lumped model electronics.” And one of the biggest problems in understanding anything related to RF is visualizing its concepts. It doesn’t lend itself neatly to pictures and graphics. It’s something that’s hard to translate into our physical experience of the world.

It might be for this reason that most explanations of beamforming are lacking. Beamforming is a key wireless technology for optimizing performance between two devices based on their physical location. A typical use of this technology is employed at a base station, optimizing the performance between the base station and a user’s device.

Most explanations for beamforming are highly technical and invoke representations of extremely complex RF behavior. But they don’t well address the core question of what is happening in 3D space when we talk about beamforming. They end up making beamforming seem even more like a form of wizardry. While pulling it off is an impressive and complicated technical achievement, the concept behind beamforming is quite straight forward.

Beamforming creates zones of stronger signal. In this blog post, we’ll look at what beamforming is, how it’s employed (especially in Massive MIMO [MMIMO] networks), and what can be done with this technology to improve user experience within the network.