WiFi repeater: how it works

What is a Wi-Fi repeater

As anticipated at the beginning of the guide, with this article of mine I intend to clear your ideas about the nature of Wi-Fi repeaters and their operation.

I therefore suggest starting from the basics trying first of all to understand what a wireless repeater is and what are its technical characteristics as well as how many and what types there are on the market. For more info keep reading, you will find all the explanations you need right below.

General info and types

WiFi repeater: how it works

A Wi-Fi repeater, in other words range extender o repeater, is nothing more than a device that, as easily understood from the name itself, allows extend the Wi-Fi signal of the reference modem / router, consequently increasing its coverage by bringing the signal to areas that are normally not reachable by the latter (due to the low power of the wireless network generated by the modem / router itself or due to any environmental impediments and / or interference).

They can look very similar to that of traditional modems / routers or they can appear as small adapters to be connected directly to the electrical outlet. They generally have prices included between 20 and 50 euros (depends on the brand and model chosen, of course) and they are very simple to set up.

If you want some advice on which Wi-Fi repeater to buy, I would like to point out my purchase guide dedicated to WiFi signal amplifiers through which I have suggested the best devices of this type among those currently available on the market. However, below you will find links "on the fly" to some of the most interesting products of the category for sale on Amazon.

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Note, then, that many modems / routers on the market can also be set in repeater mode and therefore act as Wi-Fi repeaters, I also talked about it in my router purchase guide, but that's another thing, we are not talking about a repeater in the "wild".

In recent times, they have also been making their way onto the in your languagen market i mesh systems, that is, sets made up of two or more routers (one main and other satellites) that communicate with each other using the mesh networking system. This system differs from that of classic Wi-Fi repeaters due to the fact that there is no hierarchical order among the various nodes of the network (i.e. between the various routers). All nodes communicate with each other (often using a dedicated radio channel) creating a single large network, with the same SSID and the same access key.

All this translates into the absence of typical problems of classic systems composed of several Wi-Fi repeaters, such as the occasional loss of the connection when passing from one router to another and - since all the nodes of the mesh systems transfer data at the same speed - the drop in performance when moving away from the main router. At present, mesh systems cost quite a bit compared to classic Wi-Fi repeaters, but for large homes or offices, they are definitely worth taking into consideration: I propose you some of the most interesting of the moment.

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There are also gods handyman devices which function as external chargers for mobile devices, multimedia hubs for sharing files within the local network and range extender. Even in this case, however, we are in the presence of an instrument that certainly cannot fully fall into the category in question and that is instead more suitable for those who have to respond to various needs at various times.

Another distinction that needs to be made is that with access point, devices that allow you to create a wireless network starting from a wired network. There are various types and it is not certain that they are independent (for further information you can refer to my buying guide on access points, in fact).

A further distinction must then be made with Powerline adapters (if you remember correctly, I told you about it in my article on how the Powerline works) which, despite having the same purpose as Wi-Fi repeaters, use the technology of conveyed waves to transmit data on the home electrical network. Said in even more penny terms, these devices make it possible to take advantage of the electrical system of the home to pass the Internet signal and bypass all the obstacles that normally block the spread of Wi-Fi networks.

There are also devices that combine the advantages of Powerline technology with those of mesh systems: this is the case of devolo magic: Powerline adapters which, once connected to the electrical network (and to the main router), allow you to extend the Wi-Fi coverage in very large environments by creating a single network, very stable and fast, with the same SSID and the same key access.

There are two versions of devolo Magic: devolo Magic 2 which supports wireless AC technology, has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, has a range of 500 meters and guarantees data transfer speeds of up to 2.400 Mbps, and devolo Magic 1 which, on the other hand, has two Fast Ethernet ports instead of Gigabit Ethernet ones, a range of 400 meters and a data transfer rate of up to 1.200 Mbps.

Both models are sold individually or in kits and there are also LAN-only models (therefore with only Ethernet connectivity), which have only one network port instead of two: to learn more, consult my dedicated tutorial in a specific to devolo Magic.

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Technical features

WiFi repeater: how it works

Now let's move on to the topic of technical characteristics and more precisely to the question: types of Wi-Fi supported by repeaters. There are several, each of which is able to guarantee a different data transfer speed. Here they are.

  • Wireless 802.11 b – It is the most "dated" and reaches up to 11 Megabits per second.
  • wireless 802.11 g - It is capable of up to 54 Mbps.
  • Wireless classe 802.11 n - It is currently the most popular standard and reaches 450 Mbps.
  • Wireless 802.11 AC - It is a new class capable of reaching 1.3Gbps (or 1331 Mbps) speed and is supported only by the latest models of repeaters.

Another technical feature of the Wi-Fi repeaters that must be taken into account are the frequency bands.

  • Dual band - If this wording is shown on the device packaging it means that the repeater supports both the 2.4GHz radio band (the one that includes the classic channels from 1 to 14) and the 5GHz one, which is less subject to interference from other devices but it has a shorter range and in the current state of things it is not yet supported by all devices. However, it should be noted that 5GHz networks can only be used with computers, smartphones and other devices with support for this type of connectivity.
  • Tri band - There are repeaters on the market that can combine a 2.4GHz frequency band with two 5GHz bands to ensure a higher data transfer rate than the above devices. However, these are high-end products intended mostly for those who have special needs as well as a greater available budget (they are in fact more expensive).

Again with reference to high-end repeaters, technology should also be mentioned MU-MIMO which exploits the 5GHz frequency band and allows the range extender to communicate with a maximum number of four devices at the same time - while the "classic" repeaters are able to handle the requests of only one device at a time - returning greater transfer efficiency some data. To take advantage of the aforementioned technology, however, it is also necessary that the target devices (computers, smartphones, tablets, etc.) are prepared for its use.

If then in the data sheet of a Wi-Fi repeater you read that it supports the technology BeamformingBeamforming+, indicates that this uses a signal addressing technology that directs the wireless network precisely to the devices that need it, thus allowing faster communication with the devices in question and returning better performance, obviously.

The Wi-Fi repeaters can then present types of doors ed inputs different as well as in variable numbers. Let's see which ones.

  • doors Ethernet - They allow you to connect computers and other devices to the Internet via cable and are divided into Fast Ethernet (which guarantee a data transfer speed of up to 100Mbps) e Gigabit Ethernet (which allow you to transfer data up to a maximum sail of 1.000Mbps).
  • USB ports - They allow you to network devices such as printers and hard drives.
  • Inputs audio - They allow you to transform any traditional audio system or speaker into a Wi-Fi device and easily play music from your smartphone, tablet or computer.

The number, the type and the power of the antennas present on the repeater. Their performance is measured in dBi and depending on the case they can be internal o external and still fixed o removable.

Better positioning

WiFi repeater: how it works

To allow the Wi-Fi repeater to pick up the wireless connection of your modem / router you will need to place it in a point of the house where there is signal coverage, more precisely halfway between the primary modem / router and the devices to be reached with the extended network. Clearly, if the signal is not satisfactory, you can get a little closer to the modem / router.

As much as possible, it is then good to try to eliminate all of those obstacles (e.g. too thick walls, load-bearing walls, mirrors, etc.) that can come between the Wi-Fi repeater and the modem / router, reducing at the same time all possible interference resulting from the presence of other equipment such as cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, microwave ovens, etc. In this way, you will be able to take advantage of the generated wireless network to its maximum power.

However, keep in mind that most Wi-Fi repeaters have a visual signaling mechanism (via LED) that allows you to determine which is the best positioning with respect to the modem / router. Generally the color led green stable indicates that the chosen location is correct, that of color red o yellow or l 'assenza of a lighting signal indicates, on the other hand, that the positioning is not the best.


WiFi repeater: how it works

As for the discourse instead configuration, usually it is sufficient to connect the Wi-Fi repeater to the computer using an Ethernet cable or connect their network with the PC, open the browser and go to the relative internal management panel by typing the address o or the address indicated in the instruction manual (eg. mywifiext.net). Alternatively, you can enter the installation disk device into your computer and follow the wizard that is proposed.

During the initial setup process, the range extender detects all available wireless networks nearby. You select the connection of your wireless modem / router, click on the button for to move on or whatever it is about that for confirm the choice made and complete the setup by entering the protection key of the selected network and following the further simple instructions that are shown on the screen.

Once all the above steps have been completed, your Wi-Fi repeater will finally be ready to be used and you can then connect to the Internet even in rooms that were not previously covered by the Wi-Fi signal using the range extender connection (which it can have the same name as the connection of the primary modem / router, a variant of it with the words EXT at the end or can be completely customized).

I would also like to point out that the most modern range extenders can also be connected to the modem / router via WPS. In case you are not aware of it, it is a special technology thanks to which it is possible to pair wireless devices to the modem / router by simply pressing a button. Therefore, if your modem / router (and also the Wi-Fi repeater in your possession) have support for the aforementioned technology, you can activate your repeater simply by pressing the dedicated WPS button on both devices and waiting a few moments.

If something is not clear to you or if you think you need more details, you can refer to the User Manual attached to the sales package of the Wi-Fi repeater (which you can also find in digital format in the section dedicated to assistance on the website of the reference company), you can do some research on Google (often talked about on thematic forums) using keywords like configure Wi-Fi repeater [make and model] (instead of [make and model] you have to type in the make and model of your device) or, again, you can jump on YouTube always using keywords similar to those indicated above.

Alternative solutions

WiFi repeater: how it works

At this point, I'm sure, you will have perfectly clear ideas on how a Wi-Fi repeater works. However, if for one reason or another it is not possible for you to use one or if you need to expand the coverage of your wireless network only occasionally and / or only for a few meters, you can also transform yours. laptop computer (or your desktop computer equipped with a network card with Wi-Fi support) in a Wi-Fi repeater to extend the range of an existing network. To do this, you can read my tutorial on how to use your PC as a WiFi router and put into practice the instructions you find in it.

Clearly, the fact remains that you can also evaluate the use of alternative solutions such as those I mentioned at the beginning of the article: handyman devices, access points and powerline repeaters.

And if you are away from home and you need a Wi-Fi connection on devices that do not support 3G / 4G networks, you can take advantage of the tethering of your mobile phone that allows you to share the data network with computers, tablets and other devices and use it as if it were a common wireless network (clearly, in this case the data provided by your plan will be consumed). To learn more and to find out exactly how to proceed, you can read my article on how to use smartphones as a modem.

In conclusion, if you do not need to extend the Wi-Fi by a lot but you just want to get a decent boost, if you have some time available and if you want to try your hand at a healthy activity in "Art Attack" sauce you can create with your own hands handcrafted antennas using cardboard, aluminum foil and little else to be placed on the “real” antennas of the Wi-Fi modem / router. For more information, you can refer to my guides on how to boost the Wifi signal and how to boost the wireless signal.

Articolo realizzato in collaboration with devolo.

WiFi repeater: how it works

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