The principles of operation of a WiFi repeater

Internet connections are generally provided in homes through a box, using a Wi-Fi signal. Depending on the configuration of the house and the local load of the waves, it is possible that the Wifi coverage is not of good quality in all the rooms, floors or corners of the house.

To remedy this situation and extend the WiFi coverage area inside the home, there is fortunately a simple solution: the WiFi repeater. This device, whose operating principle is actually quite simple to understand, allows you to enjoy a quality internet connection in places that have problems with the reception of the Wifi signal, as you can see by consulting our guide to the Wifi repeater to know everything about Wifi repeaters.

We will also discover together the differences between a Wifi amplifier, a powerline plug and a repeater, equipment that can achieve the same result, but using different techniques.

What is a Wifi repeater

What is a Wifi repeater?

Now that we know what a Wifi repeater is used for, namely to improve the Wifi coverage of an internet box or a router, it is time to look more in detail at the functioning of these devices.

Specifically, a repeater captures the signal of the Wifi network of your box or router Internet to create a copy that it will broadcast in the area where it is placed, acting as a second box Wifi. Depending on its location, it can therefore double the network coverage area. However, unlike an amplifier, a repeater does not improve the quality (speed or power) of a Wifi signal.

If your repeater receives a weak signal, it will only be able to reproduce this weak signal, which implies to choose wisely its location to take full advantage of its performance, as we will see later in this article.

The different types and models of repeaters

There are several standards of Wifi signals. Currently, the most recent Wifi standard is the Wifi “AC” (802. 11ac), which can support a theoretical speed of up to 1700 Mbps. If your box uses the “AC” standard, you should therefore choose to equip yourself with a repeater also compatible with the “AC” standard to take full advantage of the device and extend the coverage area of the Wifi network.

All the devices using a connection by Wifi, including the repeaters, are retro compatible, that is to say that they can function with a previous Wifi standard, “n”, “b” or “g”. In fact, an “AC” repeater can be used with a box emitting a previous signal, but with the limitation that it will only reproduce the existing signal, without transforming it into an “AC” network, faster and more powerful. It is therefore advisable to choose a model of “AC” repeater, which will be compatible with future models of internet box using fiber technology.

Moreover, it is necessary to know that a domestic Wifi network can rely on two frequency bands, the 2.4 GHz band and the 5 GHz band. Some models of repeaters are able to manage only the first band, while others can manage both and are therefore called dual-band. In general, the operation of a WiFi network “AC” is based on the use of both frequency bands, so it is logical that the repeaters displaying the “AC” standard are also compatible with each band.

Connecting to the Internet via a Wifi repeater

Once the device is installed manually or by using the WPS function, there are two main ways to connect to a Wifi repeater. Indeed, some repeaters reproduce the Wifi network of the box or the original internet router by giving it exactly the same network name and the same connection identifiers, while others go through the creation of a new network.

In the first case, all your devices (computers, tablets, smartphones, game consoles) already configured to connect to your box or router, will automatically be able to connect to the signal emitted by the antennas of the repeater, without any other adjustment to make. This type of operation is characteristic of TP-Link repeaters, including the TP-Link RE200 model, which is an “AC” Wifi standard device with a bonus Ethernet port for a wired connection, if needed.

Other manufacturers, such as Netgear, use a different technology that generates the creation of a second Wifi network from the original box, a The operating principles of a Wifi-network repeater that has a different name, but still retains the same connection password. A user of a Netgear repeater (Netgear EX6150 or Netgear EX7300) must therefore configure all the devices he wants to connect to the repeater, by connecting to the new network and entering the password, which is the same as the one for the connection to the ISP box.

Each device configured in this way will then be able to connect to the Wifi network, choosing the best available signal (box or repeater) depending on where it is in the house.

The Ethernet port and additional options

Some Wifi repeaters have a socket or Ethernet port, an option that allows you to directly connect a device to the repeater through an Ethernet cable. This type of connection to the Internet is known to offer a faster and more stable signal.

Of course, the presence of an Ethernet cable means that the wireless connection loses its nomadic aspect, which can be inconvenient for a smartphone or a digital tablet, but can be perfectly suitable for connecting a desktop computer, a home games console or a printer.

To be complete on the options available on some repeaters, it is interesting to note the possibility of finding a female electrical socket, allowing to plug any electrical device or power strip on the repeater, or the presence of a WPS function. The WPS allows the activation and automatic configuration of the device by simply pressing a button, provided that your box or your router are also equipped with the WPS option. Otherwise, you have to go through a manual installation, which can be tedious for beginners, which makes WPS an important choice criterion.

The number of options available and the Wifi standard used influence the price of repeaters, which can range from about thirty to a hundred euros, depending on the brand and model.

Choosing the right location for a repeater

Let’s finish this overview of the functioning of Wifi repeaters by answering the most important question in this matter: where to place a Wifi repeater? As we have already seen, the repeater creates a copy of the Wifi signal of the box to re-transmit it in the house through its antennas.

This implies that if the repeater copies a signal of poor quality, it will also emit a degraded signal, which is not the goal. The location chosen to install a repeater is therefore extremely important to improve the coverage area of the Wifi network, but is also to provide a good quality signal.

A Wifi network can be symbolized as a circle, with the internet box in the center. Beyond the limits of this circle, the network speed drops and becomes less stable, a decrease in performance materialized on the devices by the decrease in the number of signal bars displayed.

A Wifi repeater will capture the signal of this first circle to copy it and broadcast it, creating a second circle around it. The choice of the location of the repeater is a compromise between the quality of the signal it receives, which must be good, and your needs to expand the range of the Wifi signal, the second circle.

In summary, a repeater placed too close to the box or router is of limited interest, because it will not really expand the range of the signal. Conversely, repeaters that are too far away are ineffective, as they can only repeat a degraded signal with a bit rate that is too low to satisfy network use for watching streaming movies and videos or playing online video games. It is therefore towards an average position that we must orient ourselves to determine the ideal location of a Wifi repeater in a house.