What is a WIFI Extender and How Does It Work?
- 21 Aug, 2020
Struggling with poor internet connection in some areas of your home or office?
Lying on your bed trying to stream your favourite Netflix show when suddenly the dreaded “circle of doom” starts on your screen- your show keeps buffering for minutes on end. You grab your phone and start browsing Google looking for answers. Why is your wifi network not working? You need a solution ASAP! And Every page takes forever to load as you look for answers.
It’s a frustrating experience, especially since you are paying for high-speed internet.
Why Doesn't My WiFi Reach Every Corner of My House?
There are a couple of reasons why your Wifi is not reaching all areas of your home:
Location of your wifi router
Wireless signal is broadcasted by the wifi router in your home. If your router is located in an enclosed area such as a cellar, closet or under a desk, the wifi signal will be partially obstructed. As signals travel through the air other obstacles such as walls, doors, furniture and flors will obstruct your signal. This results in dead spots in certain areas of your home.
Transmitted wireless signals from your router have a specific range. Let’s take a wireless speaker as an example - you are listening to music on your speaker that is connected wirelessly (via bluetooth) to your phone. If you move away you will notice the sound quality worsening, music starts cutting out, until your speaker disconnects from your phone. The same applies to your wifi network - the further your connected devices are from the router, the weaker the signal becomes. The range of your wifi router can be affected by the size of your house, obstacles in the layout of the home or the age of your router.
WiFi Router’s Age
The older your router the more likely you are to experience weak wifi signal. Old routers are more susceptible to signal interference, slow speeds and reduced wifi range. Newer routers often have antennas that are better at receiving and transmitting signal than their predecessors. Newer routers also support the latest wifi standards which have speeds that are much faster than previous standards. Plus they have Mimo technology, meaning more devices can be connected without hindering the internet speed.
Location of Wifi Router
To enhance your internet connection, move the router to a central location if possible. Sometimes the router can’t be moved because there are other wired devices connected to it or the router is connected to a modem that can't be moved. In these cases, a longer network cable might be useful.
Moving the router can help extend the WiFi range, reduce dead spots, and lessen the number of obstacles that can interfere with the signal. Also, check if your router is up-to-date. If you have an older model, upgrade to a new router with the latest WiFi standards for improved speeds.
What if My Router is Up to Date and in the Best Possible Location, BUT I Still Have Poor WiFi Coverage?
An excellent solution to improving your wifi signal and reducing dead spots is to invest in a wifi extender. Wifi extenders connect to the router and extend the range of the wifi signal in areas where you experience little signal.
What is a WiFi Extender?
Before we discuss what WiFi extenders are and how they function, you need to be familiar with some common terms…
WiFi extenders are usually referred to as wireless range extenders and WiFi range extenders.
Many people also call extenders WiFi repeater, WiFi booster, or WiFi signal booster; they rebroadcast the signal to improving your WiFi connection, so they are similar to extenders but work differently.
A WiFi extender is a wired or wireless device that extends the range of the signal your WiFi router transmits. Essentially, a WiFi extender is a bridge between the WiFi router and the wireless devices that are out of the WiFi router’s range.
How Do WiFi Extenders Work?
The difference between the two bands is speed, range, and bandwidth. The 2.4 GHz band provides a larger WiFi coverage with slower speeds. In contrast, the 5GHz band provides high-speeds with less WiFi coverage.
Through these frequencies, the extender is able to pick up the wireless signal transmitted by the router. Then, the extender will create its own signal and broadcast it into the areas you are experiencing network connection problems.
Keep in mind that the WiFi extender DOES NOT amplify or strengthen the wireless signal transmitted by the router. It gets the internet access from the router and broadcasts its own signal into space where the wireless signal did not originally reach.
As a result, you expand your WiFi coverage area. The places that were originally dead zones or had a weak WiFi connection, will be immediately eliminated.
How Do I Install a WiFi Extender?
Wifi extender manufacturers such as Netgear, D-Link, Tp-Link all have different installation processes. The below is a general set of instructions that will apply to most extenders.
Connect the WiFi Extender to the WiFi Router
Start by plugging in the extender into a power plug in the same room as the wifi router. Some extenders will require you to press the WPS button on both devices to connect them. Some require you to access a specific website to finish the installation. After you have synced the extender with the router, you can move it to the required location and plug it into the wall outlet.
Choose the Locations for the WiFi Extender
Place your extender in a strategic location. We recommend placing it where it is close enough to the router to get a strong signal, but far enough to broadcast signal into the desired location.
Some extenders have wired connectivity as an option, with an ethernet port that can be used to connect wired devices. If you have wired devices, you can use a fast ethernet cable to connect the device and the wifi extender.
WiFi Extender Broadcasts Signal
Once the WiFi extender is connected to the router, it will broadcast its own wireless signal through its external antennas, acting like a wireless access point (WAP) allowing laptops, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and game consoles to connect to it.
Since the extender is broadcasting its own signal, it's almost like having another wireless router in your home. Therefore, the extender will have its own WiFi network name (SSID).
How Many WiFi Extenders Can You Have in Your House?
To have the best wireless coverage area, you can use multiple WiFi range extenders.
However, keep the following in mind:
- Every WiFi extender will need to be connected and in range of a WiFi router to access the internet.
- Do not connect one WiFi extender to another, as it will cause one of the extenders to stop working.
- Each extender needs to have a different WiFi network name from each other to prevent them from connecting to one another.
How Will I Connect My Wireless Devices to the WiFi Extender?
A WiFi extender connected to a router is like having two routers to create a larger WiFi coverage area.
When connecting your mobile device to your router, you have to do this via accessing the settings on your phone. You choose the network name that corresponds to your router and enter a password to access the internet
To connect your wireless device to your “new router” you will have to go through the same steps.
By default, the network name for the WiFi extender will be the same as your routers' name, but with EXT (short for extender) added at the end.
Router Name: Home WiFi
Extender Name: Home WiFi EXT
Remember, if you have multiple extenders you will need to change the default names.
Will My Wireless Devices Switch Automatically Between Networks?
If you are 100% out of your router's range, your wireless device will automatically switch to the extender’s network.
However, there will be some areas where your wireless device will be able to detect both your original WiFi networks and the WiFi extenders network. When this happens, you will have to disconnect and then reconnect from the original network to the extended network and vice versa.
Are WiFi Extenders Secure?
Yes, they use the same security as traditional WiFi: WEP, WPA, and WPA2.
WPA and WPA2 are better to use than WEP. If you want a more secure extender, make sure the extender you get supports WPA or WPA2.
It’s possible to change your encryptions from WEP to WPA or WPA2; it just depends on the type of extender you have.
What Would Be the Best WiFi Extender for My Needs?
Before choosing a WiFi extender, you need to know the types of extenders that are out in the market.
There are three types of WiFi extenders:
Single-Band WiFi Extenders
Single-band extenders only have the capability to transmit a 2.4GHz frequencies. Due to the frequency, the signal has the ability to travel through obstructions such as walls, furniture, and floors better. However, many devices like old cordless phones, baby monitors, and microwaves use the 2.4GHz frequency. Due to various devices using the same frequency, it can cause you to experience slower speeds. Also, since signal-band extenders receive and transmit signal on the same frequency, they tend to lose 50% of their bandwidth.
Dual-Band WiFi Extenders
Dual-Band extenders are the most common, they have the capability to broadcast 2.4GHz and 5GHz. They are able to use both frequencies to communicate between devices; it will use once to communicate with the WiFi router and the other to broadcast its own signal. As a result, fewer devices interfere with the signal, and you are able to enjoy faster WiFi speeds because they have more bandwidth.
Tri-Band WiFi Extenders
Tri-band extenders utilise two 5GHz bands and one 2.4GHz band to provide you with the best WiFi coverage. Your devices will experience the least amount of interference, faster WiFi speeds, and long-range coverage. Tri-band extenders (also known as mesh extenders) are most commonly used for mesh networks - a group of devices that act as a single WiFi system.
Do WiFi Extenders Need to be the Same Brand as My Router?
An extender will work even if you have a Linksys router and purchased a Huawei extender through Takealot.
But, regardless of which brand you go with, keep in mind that the extender should match your router's specs.
For example, if you have an ac1200 dual-band router, get an ac1200 dual-band extender. Or if you have a router that supports MU-MIMO, get an extender that supports this technology.
Do WiFi Extenders Really Work?
Short answer: yes, WiFi extenders work.
The location of where you place the extender is critically important. It should be close enough to the router to get a strong signal, but far away enough to broadcast signal into the desired areas. As long as the WiFi extender is placed in a good spot, you will see an instant improvement in the areas where you were experiencing dead spots and weak WiFi connection.
You could even test it out.
Before installing your extenders, you can conduct a speed test. You can go into different rooms and test the upload and download speeds. After installing the extenders, run the speed test again in the same rooms. Write the results down so you can compare the before and after results.
Why Should I Get a WiFi Extender?
The benefits of WiFi Extenders:
- Your WiFi network will improve in every room.
- They help eliminate dead zones around your home by bypassing walls and building materials that block WiFi signal.
- Your WiFi coverage will increase significantly; it can even expand into your backyard.
- All of your wireless devices will maintain a stable signal and experience faster speeds.
Bolton Technical is a leader in the South African signal booster market and offer signal boosters for homes, vehicles, and commercial buildings. They specialise in consumer-friendly kits as well as customized RF systems for cellular, public safety, two-way radio, DAS, and WiFi.
We’re here to assist with any issues you might be experiencing with poor cell service.
Contact us today, or call us at 011 749 3085. Our teams are Johannesburg based, and ready to assist with any queries you may have.
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