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What is a Wi-Fi repeater/extender?

By 24th April 20174 Comments

A Wi-Fi repeater or extender works by picking up an existing Wi-Fi signal and then boosting it to reach a wider area but it’s important to remember that all Wi-Fi repeaters have some speed loss and that some are much worse than others. The worst of them are devices that only have one “radio” working on a single band as they 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… doesn’t sound very helpful does it? This is why we never recommend repeaters or extenders to our customers as they usually lead to signal degradation. There are multiple other solutions available to you where you retain as much “speed” as you can even when on wireless; move your router to a more central area (think line of sight to your devices), buy a new router or access point with multiple radios and better technology, install more wireless access points (that connect via a cable to your existing router) to ensure the signal your sending is the strongest it can be. However, for the purpose of this article… we’re going to stick to the repeaters/extenders because perhaps you cannot install cable OR move your router. So let’s dig into the technology a little more.

Dual band repeaters are better than a single band because the data traffic is lessened on a single “lane”; receiving to the router on one band and outputting a WiFi signal on the other means that you will lose less speed by moving into the extended Wi-Fi area. In addition to this sometimes a faster processor in the device helps by enabling maximum WiFi throughput, so keep an eye out for both of these classifications on the box when purchasing. They are not the best… but they’ll help.

Lastly, and definitely the most effective in reducing speed loss is dual radios; with one radio “listening” and the other “talking” so each radio performs a single function. One Wi-Fi radio receives the signal and the other radio rebroadcasts the boosted signal. When used properly this design allows the boosted signal to utilize a different WiFi channel, which greatly increases performance compared to single radio repeaters. So again, look out for this on the box when purchasing and if you are able to… research the device online. There are many good technical sites out there that have valuable reviews on products and when purchasing a technical item like this, it’s important to read these reviews to see how they stack up against other manufacturers.

So in closing, there are better solutions to improving your wireless in your environment, but if you cannot run a cable, purchase a newer (better) router or move your device into the middle of your work area… then follow these steps to find a range extender that will work for you.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Frederik Lotter says:

    I have just installed a 10mbps fibre connection to my home, with a Tenda F9 router.
    My house is pretty much built around a courtyard, so its tricky to get proper signal from a single router in all areas. Will a few wifi power line extenders like the 2-pin extender do the trick? Are there better, yet affordable options available? Is it better to stick to the same brand with the extenders? I will appreciate any recommendation(s) – I do not have LAN connections to any of the other areas of the house.

    • Dial a Nerd says:

      Hello, the power line extenders are great only if your power cables in the house are in good condition. Sticking to the same brand is recommended but it’s not a bad idea to try other alternatives, the Netgear and TP-link ones are normally the more affordable options.

  • Anzel says:

    Good day

    We have a wifi (fibre) installation. In another room we have a range extender/repeater. A few weeks ago our wifi was off (service provider fault). I called the service provider several times and the problem was resolved but since then our range extender/repeater isn’t working. Can you please assist?

    Wifi router D-LINK (DSL G225)
    Range extender D-LINK (DAP 1360)

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