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Preventing Wi-Fi Dead Zones: Mesh, Extenders, Repeaters

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Today, Wi-Fi is an integral part of every home and business with its ability to provide the necessary communication for the IoT (Internet of Things). However, ensuring that every area of your home or business has an adequate Wi-Fi signal can be tricky, especially for larger buildings with unusual layouts, multiple stories, or brick walls. So, to defend against the potential of Wi-Fi dead zones, I have compiled a list of methods to avoid, find, and most importantly, fix these potentially troublesome situations. By following these suggestions, you will be able to enjoy streaming and singing along to your favorite Justin Bieber song in your basement with no performance loss (don’t worry, your secret is safe with me).

Background

Initially used for years in massive military and civilian buildings where security was critical, mesh networks and repeaters were an outstanding way to provide Wi-Fi signals to every area while maintaining an isolated and protected network. With recent Wi-Fi and device advancements, this technology is now available for all to use and enjoy.

How to Avoid Dead Zones

Before you think about adding any new device to help you extend your Wi-Fi signal, it is essential to know that simple network/building planning is the most optimal and cost-effective method. For example, older buildings generally use thick plaster walls supported by Wi-Fi signal-interfering metal. Additionally, metal objects such as desks or shelving can also limit the range of a Wi-Fi router depending on their location. The location which you choose to install your router is vital as well. For a home, try to get the router close to the center of the building, so that the signal reaches as much of the house as possible. A basement would not be an ideal location for a router, as the number of floors and their thickness can interfere with the signal reaching every other level.

How to Find Dead Zones

You probably already have an idea of where the dead zones are in your home or business but if not, take a quick trip to each room with your laptop or phone while streaming a video over your Wi-Fi. If you notice significant drops in connectivity or speed, then that room is either out of optimal range of your router or an object or some other form of obstruction is interfering with the signal. You can also use the many free Wi-Fi analyzing apps that are available, such as the Wi-Fi Analyzer for Android devices.

How to Fix Dead Zones

Apart from positioning your Wi-Fi router in the correct position, there are several methods to both extend and strengthen your Wi-Fi’s signal in your home and business.

Mesh Router

To quickly summarize what a router actually is, routers directly route internet traffic between modems and Wi-Fi enabled gadgets. The reach of routers is often limited, which is where mesh routers come into play. By using multiple access points, mesh router systems rebroadcast the signals to one or more access points/satellites, thus boosting the routers coverage and signal strength. Mesh routers also enjoy the benefits of simplified network management (cut off access to specific networks, create guest networks, test quality of each area), streamlined connections (instead of using range extenders to generate entirely new networks), and enhanced security (automatically checking, updating, and installing firmware). Mesh router systems tend to be pricey and really only necessary for more substantial buildings. For a smaller home, for example, a mesh network would most likely not be required. For a highly-rated example of a mesh router, look no further than NETGEAR’s Orbi Mesh Wi-Fi System, offering blazing fast speeds, Amazon Alexa connectivity, and secure and reliable connections.

Wireless Range Extender

While similar to a mesh router, range extenders are stand-alone equipment which are positioned between your router and the location you desire to have improved signal strength and coverage. Although range extenders rebroadcast your router’s signal, it performs this by using a completely different wireless channel. One of range extender’s drawbacks is that the location which you position it can cause severe network problems or enhanced compatibilities, depending on your choice of site. Wi-Fi range extenders are significantly less expensive than mesh systems but do not have all of the benefits such as easier management and more in-depth security. The N300 Wi-Fi Range Extender is an excellent piece of hardware, featuring external antennas, a port for a wired device, and merely plugs into a wall outlet.

Other Options

Upgrading Wi-Fi Router’s Antenna

There are several other methods you can use to boost your Wi-Fi signal, such as replacing the Wi-Fi antenna on your wireless router (if your router allows). For some examples of how this works, you can replace the existing omnidirectional antenna with a stronger omnidirectional antenna, replace the existing omnidirectional antenna with a high-gain directional antenna, and can add an external omnidirectional or directional antenna to the router.

Upgrading to a Long-Range Wi-Fi Router

In some cases, instead of adding more pieces of hardware, you can simply upgrade your existing router to boost its reach and signal. One of my favorite companies, ASUS, delivers this award-winning Wi-Fi router, the AC3100 Dual Band Gigabit WiFi Gaming Router; this router is designed with outstanding levels of security, speed, and range. While upgrading a router can be expensive, if you take the cost of adding more equipment (mesh, extenders) into consideration to get the same effects of an entirely new router, the cost can be justified.

Summary

Whether you are merely only looking for higher performance and reach in your small home or want to advance the Wi-Fi signal’s security and speed in a large office, these methods I have shared will help you get the most out of your current setup, or revolutionize your wireless capabilities to levels you have only dreamed of. Be sure to remember, just as with any piece of technology you are looking at augmenting or replacing, research is vital. Know what you desire, what your price range is, what your expectations for future growth are, and above all, what kind of features and performance make you smile.

Sources

Fanproc. (2018). Wi-Fi Analyzer. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.farproc.wifi.analyzer.

NETGEAR. (2018). Orbi Mesh Wi-Fi System with Orbi Voice Smart Speaker. Retrieved from https://www.netgear.com/landings/Orbi-Voice/.

NETGEAR. (2018). N300 Wi-Fi Range Extender. Retrieved from https://www.netgear.com/home/products/networking/wifi-range-extenders/WN3000RP.aspx.

ASUS. (2018). AC3100 Dual Band Gigabit Wi-Fi Gaming Router. Retrieved from https://www.asus.com/us/Networking/RT-AC88U/.

 

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