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In an age of seemingly non-stop on-demand streaming, video calling and gaming, most families would be happy to improve the speed, signal and strength of their home WiFi connectivity.

You may have heard of WiFi boosters — little devices that promise to enhance the range of your signal. How useful are they, though? What types are there, how do they work and might my home connection benefit from one?

By the way, before we start, if you’re struggling with your at-home internet connectivity, make sure to check out our tips and tricks for resolving WiFi speed or signal problems!

What are WiFi boosters and extenders?

WiFi booster is a catch-all term used to describe any device marketed as improving the range, speed and quality of your home WiFi signal. You’ll often hear of ‘repeaters’ and ‘extenders’, too — manufacturers can use a number of terms to describe WiFi booster signal products.

The market is one typified by rather confusing jargon: repeaters are even sometimes referred to as extenders and vice versa! Regardless, these sorts of products all aim to achieve the same thing: improved WiFi signal range in your home. They attempt to do so in different ways. 

  • Repeaters are some of the first types of WiFi booster ever created. These plug into a wall and, as the name suggests, rebroadcast (or ‘repeat’) the WiFi signal. They do not improve the strength or quality of the signal they receive — if the booster receives a poor signal, it can only repeat a weak signal. If anything, they can harm your speed by reducing bandwidth. Think of them as a relay system for your home’s wireless connection.
  • Extenders, similar to repeaters, are types of boosters that aim to improve your signal range, but do so differently — instead, they connect directly with a cable to your home router and help to amplify the signal, bringing it into another part of the home. Since they’re wired, they are better at preserving data transfer speeds.

How do different types of WiFi booster work?

WiFi repeaters, as the name suggests, simply repeat the signal they receive from the router. You plug them into a wall typically halfway between your router and the area of poor connectivity; the device then rebroadcasts the signal, helping it to reach a larger area.

They can be seen as secondary routers that connect to the primary router. Many use the same channel to receive and send data to your wireless router — also known as single-band repeaters. Since they use the same radio to receive and send data, these can reduce your bandwidth significantly, harming data speeds.

Dual-radio repeaters, on the other hand, receive the signal from a lower channel and rebroadcast it on a different channel. Whilst these can still harm speeds, they are not typically as bad as single-band repeaters.

WiFi extenders work by plugging directly into your router with an ethernet or coaxial cable. These attempt to amplify your signal so it reaches further into your home. Compared to repeaters, extenders can help to prevent your speeds being reduced and help to eliminate latency from the mix.

So, do WiFi boosters really work? Here’s our verdict at IT4Home… 

Here’s what IT4Home’s engineer, Paul, has to say about WiFi boosters… 

“If you’re looking for a fast, reliable connection in a distant area of the home — perhaps for streaming, gaming or video calling — WiFi boosters aren’t really recommended. They are simply a sticking plaster for a more fundamental connectivity problem. If a booster is receiving a poor signal, this is all it can retransmit. They are not a panacea for poor connectivity.

“Additionally, some cheap WiFi boosters can effectively half your bandwidth. The repeater uses the same radio to receive and send data to your wireless router. They are also prone to interference from external sources of signal, even including fridges!”

“On the other hand, if you’re just looking for some modest coverage to patch up a blackspot, they might suit your needs as a temporary solution. These devices can be fairly cheap too, some costing as little as £15. But, be warned, you get what you pay for!”

So, although they may be able to provide small improvements in range, these devices are by no means a solution for your at-home WiFi woes. If you haven’t already, make sure you’ve already taken a look at our tips and tricks for resolving your WiFi speed or signal problems — in most cases, a booster isn’t required, but some other two-minute technical tweak.

You might also want to look at a mesh network, which can widen your home’s signal range drastically without compromising on speed. If you’d like to find out more about these, drop a message to our team.

Need a helping hand strengthening your signal?

Whether it’s a wobbly WiFi connection or you need us to look at some other aspect of your home tech, call the IT superheroes at IT4Home. There’s nothing that doesn’t faze us. Trust us — we’ve seen it all.

Contact our tech team today