As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic more Australians than ever are working and learning from home, triggering a rapid uptake of new forms of digital communication. High speed reliable internet connectivity is no longer a discretionary item, it is an essential utility for every Australian home.
Streaming and video conferencing technologies (aka Zoom) place increased demands on bandwidth and latency in your network. When your WiFi signal strength is weak or inconsistent, these digital communication tools, that we have come to depend upon, can be rendered useless. WiFi is regarded as the default solution for indoor internet access and our expectations are that once NBN is installed and the router turned on, we will be able to connect seamlessly. Unfortunately in many cases these expectations are unrealistic. Ensuring that your internet is able to support the demands placed upon it by rapidly evolving digital communications functionality is critical.
Many of us would benefit from a WiFi boost at home or work, and that is where WiFi extenders come in. A WiFi extender may also be called a mesh unit, a bridge or a range extender. Whatever you call it, it’s simply a secondary networking device that works with your existing router to give you better internet service right where you need it. Here’s what you need to know before making the purchase.
Factors that affect the quality of your WiFi signal
Consider a family home or commercial property smaller than a few hundred square metres, there are various factors that can impede a clear WiFi signal:
- Router positioning in the property – In many homes the NBN network terminates in the garage, usually at the front of the building. The further you get from the router, the weaker the signal strength becomes, this leads to poor coverage at the other end of the property.
- The size and layout of the property – In addition to the position of the router, the larger the primary building is and if there are additional buildings on the property that require coverage, the weaker that WiFi signal will be by the time it reaches the properties extremities.
- Physical obstructions – Every physical object in a building is a potential obstruction. Walls, furniture and even people, cumulatively reduce the signal or cause reflections introducing jitter. In the case of a multi level apartment building this may be complicated further, when thinking about central placement on both a vertical and horizontal plane.
What can I do to improve my signal strength?
The good news is there are several ways to improve your WiFi signal, so you can rely on it to work where you need it.
- Mounting the router as high as possible, ideally in the ceiling, greatly reduces obstructions as it places it at a point higher than most furniture and load bearing walls. A central hallway is the ideal location as it provides a clear ‘view’ of the coverage area.
- Install additional access points in strategic locations and connect them to the original access point via a cable. For example the original access point in the garage can be linked to a second access point in the furthest corner of the house. This enables your devices to roam between the two providing consistent performance where you need it. The draw back to this solution is that cabling can be difficult and expensive to install.
- Install a centrally located WiFi Extender. A WiFi extender is usually a plug and play piece of infrastructure that connects to the original router and rebroadcasts the WiFi signal.
What is a WiFi Extender?
A WiFi extender may also be called a repeater, booster or range extender. Whatever you call it, it’s simply a secondary networking device that works with your existing router to give you better internet service. On the most basic level a WiFi extender does is literally that, a device which rebroadcasts your WiFi signal from your wireless router to help it reach further than it can on its own. In essence, a WiFi extender acts like a networking bridge, increasing your coverage and speeds to levels beyond the routers capabilities alone. Most home and office coverage issues can be resolved quickly and affordably with this simple solution.
How Do WiFi Extenders Work?
Answering the question, how do WiFi extenders work is not perfectly straight forward. Different types of WiFi extenders work in different ways:
- A basic desktop extender typically looks a lot like a WiFi router. It utilises a set of antennas to receive, reproduce and extend a connection. It has its own power cord and will take up a bit of space, but generally has a robust build and strong specs.
- A step up from the basic is a slimline power extender version that plugs directly into your outlet. This type of extender uses your home or your business’ existing electrical wiring to boost your wireless signal. Because of that, it’s a little more discreet in your home or workplace, but tend to have a limited range.
- Beyond that there are highly spec’ed products designed to support the high demands of businesses such as internet service providers, infrastructure operators and government agencies.
- If required a ‘bridge extender’ is designed specifically to extend your wireless service into another part of your property or to a separate location. If you require WiFi in an outbuilding across the driveway, connected to the garage or in a separate building some distance away, this type of bridge extender may be the solution you require. It can cover distances up to 1.5 kilometres and is very easy to install. You simply have to connect point A to point B using the pre-configured and pre-paired modules.
- Finally, if you have a workplace with high interference, or where you need WiFi connection over a larger range, then you can consider a radio plus dish extender. This type of WiFi extender combines a high-performance radio with a high-gain dish antenna to give you wireless connection over extended distances despite interferences.
When Should You Consider a WiFi Extender?
You should consider a WiFi extender where there are dead zones or other connectivity problem areas in your house or at your workplace. These can be caused by electrical equipment, appliances, building materials, structures and structural elements and even external interferences. They can also be caused just by the distance itself. Basic WiFi extenders are fantastic for your average two or three story home and are a great solution for businesses such as restaurants, cafes or bars that have multiple seating areas, occupy several floors, and especially for those that have heavy duty kitchen equipment that can interfere with your WiFi signal. More robust bridge and radio plus dish extenders work well for larger properties or for locations with a high level of interference. These are especially important for service providers, government, public safety agencies and critical infrastructure operators.
Get In Touch
National Wireless offer a range of WiFi extender solutions, from the most basic plug and play products to an engineered solution for the most complex and business critical scenarios. If you need to increase your on-site productivity or support your employee’s who have transitioned to work from home arrangements, by optimising home or office WiFi signals, get in touch. We can help you find the solution that fits your needs.