Why WiFi Extenders are always a bad idea

I never recommend buying a single WiFi extender to improve your WiFi signal strength or coverage. This is why…

WiFi Range Extenders boost the existing WiFi in your home by reserving a chunk of WiFi signal from your router eg 10 metres away and repeating it further away with powerful amplifiers and antennas, extending your coverage by up to twice the range.

A WiFi extender can boost the WiFi signal of any standard router from any brand, even the one you got from your service provider.

However just because it can do that doesn’t mean you should buy one.

The first big catch as mentioned before is that WiFi Range Extenders boost the existing WiFi in your home by reserving a chunk of WiFi signal from your router.

If your router doesn’t have much WiFi capacity to start with, using an extender reduces the WiFi speeds of devices quite near the router because they’re fighting for a smaller chunk of WiFi capacity.

The second reason is more complicated. I’m going to use water pipes to explain why WiFi extenders are a bad idea.

For starters you pay for a pipe from your NBN provider.

It could be a big pipe that allows lots of data to transfer quickly eg: a commercial photographer working from home might choose 1000Mbps down / 50Mbps up while a senior citizen might choose a small pipe eg: 25Mbps down / 5Mbps up.

The pipe enters your home and connects to a Tap which is your modem (FTTN/FTTB) or router for all other NBN types. The router might be a cheap basic $50 device supplied by one of the big ISP’s or a better one you bought yourself.

It’s ability to transfer data may be 100 or 1000Mbps per network port. So obviously you shouldn’t bother signing up for an NBN 1000Mbps or 250Mbps plan unless your router has all 1000Mbs ports.

The same kinds of router port limitations apply to it’s WiFi capability (like a water sprinkler coming out of a tap) which can vary a lot because of it’s internal limitations and also because of where it’s placed.

That’s because the WiFi signal will get weaker the further you are from it’s source. A WiFi source should be placed in the most used part of a house eg kitchen/living room. Not in a cupboard or garage.

A good WiFi AC capable router placed in the right location should be able to reach maximum NBN pipe speed for any plan 250Mpbs/25Mbps or slower through much of a home.

However if you signup for an NBN 1000Mpbs plan the router will only manage real world WiFI data transfer speeds of 400-600Mpbs if it’s the only device using the connection and you’re standing next to the WiFi source.

Then if you have WiFi 6 capable devices like phones and laptops you need a WiFi 6 capable WiFi source to be able to make the most of a 1000Mpbs NBN connection wirelessly.

Using an expensive WiFi 6/AX extender with a big data transfer pipe to increase the range of a WiFi 5/AC or WiFi 4/N router with a small data transfer pipe would be pointless because the extender has a lot of capacity but the router’s original WiFi signal doesn’t.

Personally if someone asks me how to improve their WiFi signal I always suggest turning off the WiFi function of their NBN router and plugging in a multi part WiFi Mesh system to use instead.

Ideally a mesh system is used with network cables connecting each mesh unit to the others via network ports in your walls.

It costs money to install but it’s a proven approach that I’ve recommended for lots of people, especially those who live in multi level houses or long houses with lots of internal walls.

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