What is a WiFi extender?

What Is a WiFi extender?

WiFi is necessary for more things in our lives than people can imagine. People use it for recreation, to do homework, to watch movies or TV through streaming networks, to listen to music, or to work. You have a modem and router, so in theory, if you’re paying for the highest speed Internet, you should get great service throughout your home. Of course, if you have seventeen devices running for everyone in your home and your office is in the basement, your speeds likely won’t be top notch.

This leads people to look for ways to extend their WiFi to get better speeds across the house. For the average person, hearing about something called a WiFi extender may make you think that it’s exactly what you need. So, let’s look at what a WiFi extender is, how it works, and if it’s right for your home WiFi situation.  

What is an extender?

In basic terms, a wireless extender is a piece of equipment that is meant to boost your wireless signal. Like the name would imply, it’s meant to extend your wireless range. When your home has strong Internet speeds, but your signal is weak in certain areas of your home that isn’t near the router or an access point, in theory, a range extender should be able to improve your slow speeds and make them stronger.

How is an extender supposed to work?

Let’s say you have a two-story home. Your router is in the living room and you have an access point in the first-floor bedroom, which is decent. Now let’s say you need to connect on the upper floor of the house. You might find the Internet speeds to be weak. A range extender will grab the signal wirelessly from one of these signal points and transmit it, extending it to areas that might not otherwise receive a strong signal.

Why range extenders might not be the best option for you

The reality is, the majority of extenders just aren’t very good. If your home has dead spots as most homes do, most WiFi extenders aren’t going to improve your speeds enough to make them count. Even if they do, the more connected devices you add in those weak spots, the less performance the speeds will be for everyone.

The problem is that an extender has to do two jobs, receive and then broadcast or transmit. However, it can only do one thing at a time. So, basically, it’s working at half-speed from the jump. Having that loss of bandwidth means that your extender is never going to be fully capable to provide what you need.

A mesh network will solve your WiFi problems

Mesh networks like eero are different because it creates multiple access points that are strategically placed to ensure that no matter where you are, you’re always close enough to one to experience the fastest speeds your Internet has to offer. Instead of having one router, an access point, and an extender, it’s like having a collection of routers all throughout your house. Weak spots and dead spots are no longer problems because it’s like you’re always sitting next to your router.

Think of it in terms of distance. Instead of your home WiFi existing on two points, a mesh network like eero allows it to exist on multiple points. This means that the information being transferred has a shorter way to travel, making the signal stronger. As it uses just one SSID throughout the entire network you will be able to move anywhere through your home and your signal strength should stay the same no matter where you go!

I personally tried out the eero Home WiFi system in my home. I had an office on the far end of my house where my internet speed was suffering tremendously. I could barely get any work done, much less stream music on Spotify as I worked. However, after implementing the mesh network, all my issues have been solved. You can read all about my experience in more detail here.  

Extenders sound like a realistic option for a house that needs to clean up some WiFi weak spots, but they don’t offer enough power to get the job done effectively. Mesh networks like eero remove those dead spots and make sure each area of your home is connected properly!