In this world where everything is connected, your customers need Wi-Fi to reach every corner of their house. Wireless routers can deliver Wi-Fi to most rooms in a small home or apartment, but large homes may need help getting whole-home coverage. Structured wiring with multiple outlets makes sense but can only connect to products with a LAN port – and most smart home products are wireless.
The problem with Wi-Fi is that the signal degrades as it travels. Devices at the edge of your customers’ range will periodically lose the Wi-Fi signal. There are many options out there to extend your customers’ coverage. One that often gets overlooked is a Wi-Fi repeater.
Wi-Fi repeaters are the first generation of devices that expand a network. A repeater picks up a Wi-Fi signal from your customer’s router and broadcasts it beyond the router’s range. A range extender is similar, but it will rebroadcast on a different channel than your customer’s router.
Before you recommend that your customer invest in a repeater, evaluate the location of their router. They may have selected a less central location for aesthetic reasons, so, you may be able to convince them to move it to an optimal location by housing it in an attractive media panel.
If you established that you can’t improve the router location, you need to determine the best alternative for your customer. A wireless mesh network, made up of multiple nodes that receive and send signals, gives the best coverage. If multiple locations throughout your customer’s home are not getting a signal, a wireless mesh network might be their best option.
Often, only one area in the home isn’t picking up a signal. In this case, a Wi-Fi repeater may be the best option. A Wi-Fi repeater contains two routers, one to pick up the signal from your customer’s home network and the other to boost and broadcast a signal to their devices. Wi-Fi repeaters, particularly waterproof outdoor repeaters, are also a good option for sending a signal to outbuildings on your customer’s property.
With a Wi-Fi repeater, a second network is created. Your customers will need to know this so that they can connect to the most appropriate network on devices such as laptops or smartphones that they use in different parts of their homes.
Your customers could also get a powerline Ethernet kit which sends an internet signal along a home’s AC wiring. An adapter is plugged into a power outlet near the router and a second adapter is plugged into a power outlet near the device that requires a signal. A gaming console, PC, or second router can be plugged into the second adapter.
Powerline adapters are fast, and they don’t lose as much bandwidth as other repeaters. But they may have problems with signal noise, power surges and the integrity of the customer’s wiring.
The downside of Wi-Fi repeaters is that they suffer speed loss, some as much as 50%. The loss for a dual radio repeater is much less than that of a single radio repeater, but if your customers have high bandwidth requirements in the spot receiving the boosted signal, they may choose a powerline adapter or wireless mesh network.
So, if wireless mesh networks and powerline adapters can deliver a better signal, why would you ever recommend a network repeater for your customers? Because they are the least expensive option, and your customers will appreciate you stopping them from overspending.
Customers who enjoy do-it-yourself projects can build their own network repeater with an old router. They will need to replace the router’s firmware, reset the router, and then reconfigure it. An old router can also be set up as an additional access point through a wired connection.
Wi-Fi repeaters have limited utility, but for some customers, they will be exactly the right product, and they will be happy you saved them money.