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Choosing the Best Network Extender for Your Needs

What are the benefits of a network extender? How do they work to increase the range of your wireless network, and which type is right for your specific needs?
  • June 18, 2019

Many home and business networks rely on Wi-Fi connections for their devices and users. However, not all wireless signals are the same, and various factors affect the coverage area of the router. A simple solution to expanding the range of your router is a network extender. This guide explains features you should consider when choosing a network extender that’s right for you.

What is a Network Extender?

Sometimes referred to as a Wi-Fi repeater, a Wi-Fi extender lets your home or business network have a more thorough and greater coverage ability. This is an ideal solution for networks that experience low or no connection in areas around the office.

How Does a Network Extender Work?

The repeater or Wi-Fi extender works by receiving the Wi-Fi signal from your network and amplifying the boosted signal to all devices on the network, even those in the outskirts of the Wi-Fi range. Have you always dreamed of streaming Netflix while you work in the yard? A Wi-Fi range extender can give you that power by effectively doubling the range of your Wi-Fi.

What are the Different Types of Network Extenders?

While Wi-Fi boosters, repeaters and network extenders are nearly interchangeable terms for the same piece of equipment, there are different types of range extenders that work in slightly different manners.

Some extenders have external antennas that connect to wireless devices to send and receive Wi-Fi signals. Generally, these are plug-and-play devices that require little to no technical knowledge to install.

Another standard design for a Wi-Fi range extender is a powerline adapter. This kit allows the electrical circuit in your home or office to send the internet signal. The package usually comes with two plugs. One plug goes into the router and the other plug installs on the device you wish to connect to the internet. This type of set up is most often used with game consoles and smart televisions. This type of extender does not typically experience the network lag issues sometimes seen with other extender types.

There are even weather-proof designs that can boost Wi-Fi signal for more coverage in the backyard, several different floors of a building, basement area or anywhere that has previously been a challenge for devices to receive Wi-Fi signal.

Another design that is gaining traction with users is the combination router and range extender. This combo unit plugs into wherever your modem is located, and it boosts the signal with a satellite that receives, repeats and boosts the original Wi-Fi signal. They use a single name on the network (SSID), so the connection is simple and seamless. This type of Wi-Fi extender may also be designed with Gigabit Ethernet ports to enable wired devices and a faster Wi-Fi standard.

Do Network Extenders Make Your Network Slow?

The answer is yes, if you allow your extender to talk to network devices on the same band it is using to talk to the router. Powerline extender models do not have this issue as they link they set up through the electrical circuits to the router and then the network device is faster than the WiFi signal. The drawback to powerline extenders is you have less freedom of movement because your device must be near a power outlet.

Are Extended Networks Secure?

Yes. The extender works over the same signal and has the same levels of security as traditional Wi-Fi routers using WEP, WPA, WPA2 and other standard communications protocols. If your network is secure, your extender is also protected. No additional security measures are required.

What is the Best Way to Avoid Lag and Speed Loss with an Extender?

Even the best network extender may experience some speed loss. The key is to use at least two channels: one to receive and one to rebroadcast the signal. When an extender receives and retransmits each data packet on the same channel, it can reduce speed by up to 50% for single-band extenders. Merely using a dual-band configuration that allows signal input on one channel and output on another keeps your Wi-Fi in the fast lane. 

Is a Network Extender the Same as a Wireless Access Point?

While an extender boosts the range of your Wi-Fi signal, it does not expand the network bandwidth. If you have numerous devices connected, it can diminish the speed of the network. However, a wireless access point can create a wide local area network (WLAN) and broadcast a signal to a specific area, such as a different floor of an office building. Extenders can be used with wireless access points to boost the coverage area and Wi-Fi signal strength.

Using a network extender can be a smart move to get the full power of your Wi-Fi network. If you previously thought you had to "just deal with" dead spots in your coverage due to the inability of the router to reach through thick walls or between floors, using a network extender may be the solution you have been looking for.

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