WIFI Basics - Range Extenders (Repeaters)

Range Extenders or Repeaters are a simple way of increasing the range of your WIFI - but what are they, how do they work and are they any good.

Published 8/23/2023
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You have to admit a range extender is a cool concept, you plug in a little device and like magic your WIFI can now reach further. That's probably why one of the most common questions i get asked is which one I recommend. TLDR the answer is none of them, but well get back to that.

Why the name confusion

The technology behind these little devices has been around since the early days of WIFI, at some point Marketing came into play and the result was “range extender” which is more friendly and describes what they do, before that they were called “repeaters” due to how they work. 

How do they work

Repeater describes it perfectly, they listen for the data sent over a WIFI signal, then they re-broadcast it. The basic idea is that when you place one within range of your router (or another repeater) then your device can be picked up by the repeater, which will then rebroadcast it on, and will the also rebroadcast replies back to you.

Some appear as devices on your network, some don't - They still work the same way.

Where can I get them

Just about anywhere they are incredibly common. 


Your device isn't talking to your router .. it's talking to a repeater, which repeats. So immediately your halving your performance, but more than that as what it repeats isn't quite the original message. Also don't forget these devices tend to be low powered, not as in electric bill but as in performance, 

So each repeater you have more than half's your wireless network performance and it only takes two before you find yourself with only around 20% what you should be getting. and it gets worse.

That sounds shocking - but the counter is that your broadband speeds are low enough that in practice it doesn't matter. That has been changing for a long time now. 

How they affect WIFI Standard.

Over time newer WIFI Standards have been released, it started with 802.11a then 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac, 802.11ax. Newer standards offer many benefits but are typically much faster that previous ones.

But WIFI performance is determined by the slowest device and low power devices tend to use older standards because they are cheaper to implement.

This is one reason why you tend to see IoT devices on there own network, it prevents slowdowns and delays.

The result.. your WIFI 6 phone, will actually be using WIFI 4 as that is the only standard repeaters typically use. e.g. the TP-Link AC750 - Despite having AC in the name it actually uses 802.11n.

Remember - even if your phone isn't using the repeater to talk to your router, the repeater will still be causing network delays.

My thoughts…

In the right situation, they can work…. 

But ultimately i don't ever recommend these devices because.



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