WiFi Extenders & Mesh Systems-An Internet Boost

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Guide to Wifi Extenders

When you’re binging your favorite show or streaming the latest movies, the last thing you want to see is a loading screen.

You know the feeling: one minute you’re relaxing with popcorn watching the climactic battle sequence or crackling dialogue between your two favorite characters, and the next all you can see is those three dreadful dots.

It happens sometimes. Even in the best of circumstances, home internet WiFi isn't an exact science.

Unfortunately, that happens to everyone from time to time. WiFi is not always perfect.

But if you're repeatedly experiencing those load screens or spotty connections in key areas of your home, a WiFi extender might come in handy. But before you proceed with an impulsive purchase, you'll want to know every consideration first.

That’s why Optimum compiled all the relevant information in this one easy to understand guide.


What is a WiFi extender?

For those who connect to the Internet via a wireless router in the home, WiFi extenders help boost the signal from that main device to ensure that the entire home has coverage.

There are many reasons why a WiFi extender might be necessary. In general, WiFi signals fade the further you get from the wireless router, and WiFi signal quality can degrade even faster when having to pass through barriers such as furniture, walls, and doors.

The following situations can be remedied with WiFi extenders:

  • Large, long, or winding home layouts that position high-usage WiFi zones far away from your wireless router
  • High-density obstacles between you and your router such as masonry, metal, layers of lead paint (safely sealed, of course) in older homes, soundproofing or insulation material, or ground surrounding the finished basement in multi-level homes
  • Multiple layers of furniture, fixtures, doors, etc. between you and your router

Some of these issues may be partially solved by simply rearranging furniture, opening the door to a home office area where the wireless router is, or moving the wireless router.

In any case, Wifi extenders will expand the coverage area of your home WiFi network. They work by receiving the existing wifi signal, amplifying it, and transmitting the boosted signal throughout your living space. Wifi extenders can double the coverage in your home or office, making sure your Netflix binge sessions and general Internet usage are never interrupted.

Wifi extenders, mesh wifi systems, and wireless repeaters...what’s the difference?

To make sure you're getting the right extender for your needs, it may be useful to familiarize yourself with relevant terminology and the various types available. Terms to know include

  • WiFi extenders - This is the name of the general category of device that amplifies WiFi signal. So any other more specific name you encounter will describe a particular type of WiFi extender.
  • Mesh WiFi systems - This is the “smart device" way to boost your home WiFi signal - acting as a unified system connected to a central modem, with one or more "nodes" WiFi extender devices that can be positioned around your home or office to extend the connection. Mesh systems offer control through a smartphone app. You may have seen a commercial where a frustrated parent uses her phone to turn off all the WiFi in the house - that's a mesh system.
  • Wireless repeaters - This is the term used for devices that simply rebroadcasts your original WiFi signal to a localized area, without adding extra bandwidth. Wireless repeaters usually work best in networks that have no more than five connected devices.

Are WiFi extenders worth it?

In a word, yes. By boosting your home network’s coverage area, WiFi extenders can more efficiently connect your entire home or office.

They’re the best solution for the following scenarios:

  • When your home Internet WiFi connection is great while, close to the router, but worse when further away or in select areas of the home
  • When moving furniture or removing obstacles doesn’t mitigate the connection issues in an area where the WiFi signal is weakest
  • When quick fixes such as placing your wireless router on an end table or opening the door to the room where the router is located are not feasible or convenient

Importantly, WiFi extenders do not actually increase the overall bandwidth or connection speed of your home internet network. All they do is move the signal closer to your connected devices.

If you repeatedly experience lag when fully connected to your home WiFi - indicated by fully filled in bars on your device’s WiFi connection amphitheater icon - you might need an Internet connection speed upgrade in addition to a WiFi extender.

As for choosing the right WiFi extender for your needs, assess what your space requires to function best. If you have a strong connection throughout the house, but have a specific "dead zone" area, a WiFi repeater might be your best bet. If you're dealing with multiple areas with a weak connection, you might prefer a mesh system.

Good luck, and happy internetting.

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