Wi-Fi is conventionally delivered in most homes thanks to an Internet box or a dedicated router. Depending on the size of the waves and the size of the household, the coverage does not always reach 100% of the accommodation. There is a solution, the Wi-Fi repeater, a small box that is responsible for extending wireless coverage. They are available at all prices and in different shapes. A brief overview of the characteristics to take into consideration.
How does a Wi-Fi repeater work?
The concept of the Wi-Fi repeater is quite simple to understand. A Wi-Fi network can be roughly seen as a bubble that stretches all over the place from its point of origin - an Internet box or a router. The Wi-Fi repeater will pick up the signal from this bubble and create a new bubble, so as to extend the coverage area. To be effective, it must therefore be placed in an area where the starting signal is of good quality. Placed too far away, the repeater will be ineffective since it will only repeat a weak or degraded signal and will therefore offer a fairly poor flow. Placed too close to the router, it is superfluous since it will only extend the signal range a little.
It is therefore necessary to place the repeater at an average distance, neither too close nor too far from the router. This is one of the first points of distinction between the different repeaters on the market, since some are equipped with a system allowing to know if the position of the repeater is good or not.
The operation of these positioning systems is invariable from one brand to another. First, we place the repeater near the router and then configure it. If the router is WPS compatible, it is very simple since it suffices to press the appropriate button on the router then on the repeater and the configuration is complete. We then look at the light indicators of the small box to see if it is connected at a suitable distance or not. These lights are usually well made and indicate the nature of the problem (too close or too far from the router).
In the absence of WPS on the router - this is particularly the case with all Freeboxes - the repeater must be configured via a web interface or a mobile application provided by the manufacturer. It is a little less obvious for the neophyte who will have to know the name of his wireless network and the associated password. Nothing insurmountable, however.
Once the repeater is configured and correctly placed, two scenarios arise. On most repeaters, and in particular those of the Netgear brand, a new Wi-Fi network is present. Its password is identical to that of the initial network. If the initial network is called LesNums, the new network created can for example take the name of LesNums_EXT. Care must therefore be taken to manually connect the various household devices (tablet, smartphone, computer, console, etc.) to this new network. Most current devices will then switch networks, favoring the one that provides the best connection.
The other case, which we find in particular on TP-Link models, is more interesting since it acts transparently. The name of the Wi-Fi network (SSID) is the same as that of the home network. The devices therefore only see a single network (LesNums in our example) and communicate with the antennas which provide the best coverage.
From € 20 to more than € 100 depending on the functions offered
From twenty euros to more than one hundred euros, the price of this small accessory varies according to the service offered. Some are equipped with small internal antennas, less efficient than the external ones that equip the more expensive models. Some boxes are also equipped with a female electrical outlet, an interesting feature that allows not to monopolize a wall electrical outlet by giving the possibility of connecting any device or power strip above. And if most repeaters are just wall blocks, like Powerline adapters, some high-end models come in the form of remote boxes with a greater number of antennas. To be reserved for the most difficult cases, especially in VSEs / SMEs.
The nature of the supported Wi-Fi standard and the speed also vary the pricing. At a minimum, they are compatible with so-called "N" Wi-Fi (802.11n), the maximum speed of which is 150 Mb / s per stream; it is possible to have a maximum of three streams for a maximum theoretical throughput of 450 Mb / s on certain models. More recent, the Wi-Fi "AC" (802.11ac) equips more and more Internet boxes and mid- and high-end repeaters. This standard makes it possible to increase the speed up to 1 Mb / s via four streams at 733 Mb / s.
Be careful to take a Wi-Fi repeater that matches the initial Wi-Fi network. If the Internet box transmits in Wi-Fi N at 300 Mb / s, using a Wi-Fi AC repeater at 900 Mb / s will not allow you to go faster since the repeater will automatically set itself at 300 Mb / s. Moreover, it is important to remember that appliances capable of operating in AC are always capable of operating in N. An important point since most households are equipped with appliances of heterogeneous standards.
[/ link] This repeater announces a maximum speed of 1 Mb / s and its name, AC200, suggests that this speed is reached in Wi-Fi 1200ac. In practice, it can simultaneously achieve a theoretical speed of 802.11 Mb / s in 300n and 802.11 Mb / s in 900ac. The 802.11 Mb / s is also a rounding of 900 Mb / s. Quite misleading therefore.
Also pay attention to the rates advertised on the boxes of these products. The maximum rate indicated is not always the maximum theoretical rate that a device communicating with the repeater can achieve, but the maximum aggregated rate. Wi-Fi N can operate on two frequency bands, 2,4 GHz and 5 GHz, while Wi-Fi AC only operates on the 5 GHz band. Manufacturers thus often indicate that the product is capable of maintaining a flow at X Mb / s on the 2,4 GHz band and another at Y Mb / s on the 5 GHz band. These are therefore dual-band models, effectively capable of transmitting X + Y Mb / s simultaneously, but on several devices and not on just one. Sometimes the addition relates to the maximum tenable flow rate of N and AC as we indicate in the photo above.
In order to help you in your choice of Wi-Fi repeater, TechnologiesTips will soon offer you a comparison of the main models on the market. We will then look in detail at the practical aspect, the power consumption and, of course, the practical speeds.