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A guide to Wi-Fi Boosters, Repeaters and Extenders
Having trouble getting a solid, reliable Wi-Fi signal in some parts of your home? A Wi-Fi repeater could be the solution for you.
A Wi-Fi repeater or extender is used to extend the coverage area of your Wi-Fi network. It works by receiving your existing Wi-Fi signal, amplifying it and then transmitting the boosted signal. With a Wi-Fi repeater you can effectively double the coverage area of your Wi-Fi network - reaching far corners of your home or office, different floors, or even extend coverage to your yard.
What’s the difference between a Wi-Fi booster, repeater, or extender?
Wi-Fi boosters, repeaters, and extenders are mostly the same thing - devices to improve Wi-Fi coverage. There isn’t a clearly defined difference between devices that manufacturers describe as “repeaters” and devices described as “extenders”. However, not all Wi-Fi extenders work in the exact same way. There are several different kinds of devices available and below we aim to explain what those differences are and how they work, so that you can choose the best Wi-Fi repeater for your circumstances.
I have trouble getting Wi-Fi signal in some corners of my house. What should I try first?
There are a couple of solutions to try before opting for a Wi-Fi extender. The simplest is to try moving the location of your Wi-Fi router. It should be in the most central location possible. If that doesn’t help (or if changing location just isn’t practical) check if your router needs to be upgraded. If you’ve had an older model for many years, it could be time for an upgrade to a more powerful model.
One of the best options for a new router is the Archer C9 AC1900 Router from TP-LINK which offers 802.11ac, the next generation of Wi-Fi. It's a dual band router with ultrafast dual core processors and four gigabit Ethernet ports for use with Smart TVs or game consoles. It comes with unique Beamforming technology. This technology allows the routers to concentrate the Wi-Fi signal towards your Wi-Fi devices. By targeting the Wi-Fi signal to where it’s being used, the speed and performance of your network is greatly increased.
My Wi-Fi is in the best location possible! My router is up-to-date! But my coverage is still unreliable!
Okay, a Wi-Fi extender could be the solution for you! There are a couple of different options. One of the most straightforward is a powerline Ethernet kit like this starter kit from Zyxel. The kit allows you to send your internet signal over the electrical circuit in your home or office. It comes with 2 adapters; one plugs into a power socket near your current router, and the other in the location where you need signal. Connect the first one to your router using an Ethernet cable, and connect the second to an Ethernet device (e.g. a Smart TV or games console). The second adapter could also be connected to a Wi-Fi router for a second Wi-Fi network.
The great advantage to this solution is that it is fast. Firstly, it’s fast to set up. You plug and go. You could try to recreate the kit with dozens of feet of Ethernet cables, but that involves drilling holes in the walls and running cabling throughout the house - and you won’t be able to unplug and move your setup around easily. Secondly, it’s fast in bandwidth terms. An extender that uses Wi-Fi will usually see some speed loss. Because they’re communicating with the router over Wi-Fi, there’s a big speed drop if the extender talks to your devices on the same band it’s using to talk to the router. There are ways to get around this (see below!) but the powerline Ethernet kit bypasses the whole problem. By using the existing electrical circuit in your house, you create a link from your Wi-Fi router to your device that is faster than Wi-Fi and can be set up in just a few minutes.
This is a particularly great solution if, for example, you had a games console in the basement that wasn’t getting sufficiently fast or reliable signal. The kit can plug right into the console’s Ethernet connection and connect it to the router in another part of the house.
But powerline Ethernet adapters aren’t for everybody. The distance between power outlets can have an impact on performance, and so can the kind of wiring you have in your house. If a powerline Ethernet adapter isn’t right for you, we recommend considering a Wi-Fi repeater.
How Does A Wi-Fi Repeater Work?
A Wi-Fi Repeater effectively contains two wireless routers, similar to the wireless router you already have in your home or office. One of these wireless routers picks up the existing Wi-Fi network. It then transfers the signal to the other wireless router, which transmits the boosted signal.
How Do I Install A Wi-Fi Repeater?
Wi-Fi Repeaters are very easy to install. All you have to do is place the repeater in a location that can receive your existing Wi-Fi network, and then attach the power supply. You can then log into the Wi-Fi repeater via your computer, and input the login details and password of your existing Wi-Fi network, to allow the Wi-Fi repeater to connect and extend.
Got a tricky situation like a pool house in your garden? No problem! There are weatherproof Wi-Fi repeaters like the Hawking Outdoor Smart Wi-Fi Repeater that can be placed outside, boosting signal throughout your property. This kit is very flexible and can be moved easily. For example, if you are RVing and the campsite has weak Wi-Fi signal, this repeater can be fixed to the roof of your RV to boost the signal inside.
Will my laptop/mobile device switch between networks automatically?
Only if you go entirely out of range of the first network. A Wi-Fi repeater creates a second network. If your first network is not available, your device will connect to the second. But in some parts of your house, your device will be able to detect both networks at the same time. This means that if you wish to change from the original network to the boosted network you will have to disconnect and then reconnect.
Will the repeated network be secure?
Yes. Wi-Fi repeaters offer the same levels of security as traditional Wi-Fi routers (WEP, WPA, WPA2 etc).
What about that speed loss we talked about earlier?
All Wi-Fi repeaters have some speed loss, but some are much worse than others. Wi-Fi repeaters work by receiving wireless signal and rebroadcasting it, but single band repeaters have to receive, then retransmit each packet of data using the same radio on the same channel. This can cost single band repeaters 50% of their bandwidth.
Dual band repeaters get around this by connecting to the router on one band and outputting a Wi-Fi signal on the other. The Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Dual Band Wi-Fi extender uses FastLane technology to improve performance using both Wi-Fi bands. A fast processor also really helps (the Nighthawk has a Dual core 1GHz processor) by enabling maximum Wi-Fi throughput.
One final feature that helps reduce speed loss is dual radios. If the device has dual radios, it can speak to the main router on lower channels, and then rebroadcast on higher channels. The Hawking Dual Radio Smart Repeater (HW2R1) uses two Wi-Fi radios. One Wi-Fi radio receives the signal and the other radio rebroadcasts the boosted signal. This clever design allows the boosted signal to utilize a different Wi-Fi channel, which greatly increases performance compared to single radio repeaters. The Smart Repeater Pro also has a very powerful high gain antenna that can pick up even very weak Wi-Fi signals, and it rebroadcasts that signal on two powerful 3dBi omni-directional antennas.
Picture credit: Repeaterstore.com
Microtechs Specialist White label Wi-Fi Support
Supporting some of the largest Wi-Fi providers in the UK, Microtechs prides itself with the ability to adapt between end user and staff support. Constantly monitoring staffing levels, to ensure seasonal fluctuations do not affect our service levels.
Some of our clients include major UK airports, hotel chains, holiday parks and shopping centres.
Manufacturers and distributors of Wi-Fi and other cloud based products, also use our helpdesk to provide support to a wide range of resellers.
Feel free to call our friendly solutions team, who will be happy to discuss further and help tailor a solution to you.
Call us now on 01483 407417