The Difference Between OFDMA & MU-MIMO for Wi-Fi 6

Jul 1, 2020Blog

Wi-Fi 6 has many enhanced features. Two of which are multiuser technologies: OFDMA and MU-MIMO.

You may have seen these acronyms before, as well as their predecessors, ODFM and MIMO (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing and Multi-Input Multi-Output, respectively).

So, then what are OFDMA and MU-MIMO and why do we need both? Great questions.

First, let’s define the two:

OFDMA stands for Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access.

MU-MIMO stands for Multi-user multiple-input and multiple-output. Also known as Multi-user MIMO.

Both of these multi-user technologies are significant technical enhancements that come with Wi-Fi 6.


Are OFDMA & MU-MIMO similar?

Yes. Both are features of Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax). Both technologies allow access to simultaneous bi-directional communication between our devices and the access point.

(Each technology can send and receive data to/from more than one device at the exact same time.)

If are so similar, why do we need both?

While it seems like there are overlaps, there are key differences that make them both important.



While these technologies are similar, there are key differences you should know:

  • OFDMA allows multi-user access by subdividing a channel.
  • MU-MIMO allows for multi-user access by using different spatial streams.

In other words, OFDMA splits a channel and MU-MIMO uses separate channels.

Let’s dive deeper into the differences:

The main benefit of OFDMA

OFDMA can allocate the whole channel to a single user at one time or it can subdivide a channel to serve multiple users at the same time. OFDMA is a great feature for low-bandwidth applications because it gets better frequency reuse, reduced latency, and increased efficiency in dense environments.

The main benefit of MU-MIMO

MU-MIMO complements OFDMA because it increases capacity and efficiency in high-bandwidth applications. MU-MIMO is also a technology that delivers a channel to multiple users at once (up to 8 clients in a group). Unlike OFDMA, MU-MIMO is ideal for things like online gaming, video conference calls or online classes.


So, which is better?

OFMDA and MU-MIMO technologies complement each other. Each helps increase performance on the uplink and downlink.

OFDMA is best with low-bandwidth applications while MU-MIMO better serves high-bandwidth applications. With Wi-Fi 6, we get access to both. Both have a managed approach resulting in better Wi-Fi.

Curious about learning more about how Wi-Fi 6 can improve your wireless internet experience?  Learn more by visiting Actiontec’s blog or find tips and information you want on Actiontec’s Complete Guide to Wi-Fi 6

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