Overview and definitions about MIMO formats or configurations: SISO, SIMO, MISO and MIMO for receiver diversity and transmitter diversity, etc.

MIMO Technology Includes:
MIMO basics     MIMO formats: SIMO, SIMO, MISO, MIMO     Spatial multiplexing     Space time & Alamouti codes     MIMO antenna beamforming     Multi-user MIMO     Massive MIMO    

There is a number of different MIMO configurations or formats that can be used. These are termed SISO, SIMO, MISO and MIMO. These different MIMO formats offer different advantages and disadvantages - these can be balanced to provide the optimum solution for any given application.

The different MIMO formats - SISO, SIMO, MISO and MIMO require different numbers of antennas as well as having different levels of complexity. Also dependent upon the format, processing may be needed at one end of the link or the other - this can have an impact on any decisions made.

SISO, SIMO, MISO, MIMO terminology

The different forms of antenna technology refer to single or multiple inputs and outputs. These are related to the radio link. In this way the input is the transmitter as it transmits into the link or signal path, and the output is the receiver. It is at the output of the wireless link.

therefore the different forms of single / multiple antenna links are defined as below:

  • SISO - Single Input Single Output
  • SIMO - Single Input Multiple output
  • MISO - Multiple Input Single Output
  • MIMO - Multiple Input multiple Output

The term MU-MIMO is also used for a multiple user version of MIMO as described below.


The simplest form of radio link can be defined in MIMO terms as SISO - Single Input Single Output. This is effectively a standard radio channel - this transmitter operates with one antenna as does the receiver. There is no diversity and no additional processing required.

A SISO system shwoing how the system allows a single input tot he transmission medium and a single output from it
SISO - Single Input Single Output

The advantage of a SIS system is its simplicity. SISO requires no processing in terms of the various forms of diversity that may be used. However the SISO channel is limited in its performance. Interference and fading will impact the system more than a MIMO system using some form of diversity, and the channel bandwidth is limited by Shannon's law - the throughput being dependent upon the channel bandwidth and the signal to noise ratio.


The SIMO or Single Input Multiple Output version of MIMO occurs where the transmitter has a single antenna and the receiver has multiple antennas. This is also known as receive diversity. It is often used to enable a receiver system that receives signals from a number of independent sources to combat the effects of fading. It has been used for many years with short wave listening / receiving stations to combat the effects of ionospheric fading and interference.

SIMO - Single Input Multiple Output
SIMO - Single Input Multiple Output

SIMO has the advantage that it is relatively easy to implement although it does have some disadvantages in that the processing is required in the receiver. The use of SIMO may be quite acceptable in many applications, but where the receiver is located in a mobile device such as a cellphone handset, the levels of processing may be limited by size, cost and battery drain.

There are two forms of SIMO that can be used:

  • Switched diversity SIMO:   This form of SIMO looks for the strongest signal and switches to that antenna.
  • Maximum ratio combining SIMO:   This form of SIMO takes both signals and sums them to give the a combination. In this way, the signals from both antennas contribute to the overall signal.


MISO is also termed transmit diversity. In this case, the same data is transmitted redundantly from the two transmitter antennas. The receiver is then able to receive the optimum signal which it can then use to receive extract the required data.

A MISO system providing multiple transmit antennas to enable transmit diversity
MISO - Multiple Input Single Output

The advantage of using MISO is that the multiple antennas and the redundancy coding / processing is moved from the receiver to the transmitter. In instances such as cellphone UEs, this can be a significant advantage in terms of space for the antennas and reducing the level of processing required in the receiver for the redundancy coding. This has a positive impact on size, cost and battery life as the lower level of processing requires less battery consumption.


Where there are more than one antenna at either end of the radio link, this is termed MIMO - Multiple Input Multiple Output. MIMO can be used to provide improvements in both channel robustness as well as channel throughput.

MIMO system with multiple transmit and receive antennas
MIMO - Multiple Input Multiple Output

In order to be able to benefit from MIMO fully it is necessary to be able to utilise coding on the channels to separate the data from the different paths. This requires processing, but provides additional channel robustness / data throughput capacity.

There are many formats of MIMO that can be used from SISO, through SIMO and MISO to the full MIMO systems. These are all able to provide significant improvements of performance, but generally at the cost of additional processing and the number of antennas used. Balances of performance against costs, size, processing available and the resulting battery life need to be made when choosing the correct option.

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