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Does a Wi-Fi Extender Slow Down Your Internet?

If you’re struggling with Wi-Fi dead zones in your home, it can be an easy fix: get a Wi-Fi extender. A few clicks later, you’ve got a fast connection throughout the entire house. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. Even if you have the coverage, you may not always have the speed to use the apps you want.

Many people find that when a Wi-Fi extender is installed, they face slow internet speeds. But is your Wi-Fi extender to blame for the slow speeds, or are there other factors involved? To understand whether or not your Wi-Fi extender is causing your slow internet, we first need to understand how Wi-Fi extenders work.

How does a Wi-Fi extender work?

A Wi-Fi extender is a signal boosting device meant to extend your Wi-Fi network into hard to reach places throughout your home, especially in areas far from the router. The extender connects to your primary router with a wired or wireless connection and reflects one of the radio bands from the primary device in order to extend it. Essentially, Wi-Fi extenders take any traffic from devices in their range and copies that information, repeating it to the main router.

Will Wi-Fi Extenders Slow Down My Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi extenders receive data from the router, then reroute the data to your connected device. They repeat this process with information coming from your device, routing it first to the extender and then back to the primary router. This extra step effectively halves your bandwidth, as the extender cannot “listen” to your device and send information back to the router at the same time.

does wifi extender slow down internet

Another factor to consider when determining if your Wi-Fi extender has slowed your Wi-Fi is the radio band that has been extended. Most extenders extend a single radio from your router; this is usually the 2.4 GHz band. Although the 2.4 GHz band has a longer range than the 5 GHz band and can more easily pass through obstacles such as walls, it delivers slower speeds than the 5 GHz band and is more prone to network congestion and interference from devices like refrigerators and cordless phones.

Like most technology, people are likely to purchase the cheapest Wi-Fi extender available. However, this can have a detrimental effect on your Wi-Fi network, as these extenders may not be built to last or may not be high quality. Finding an affordable extender is important, but you may want to consider spending a little more on a mid-range model to ensure you get premium performance.

However, although a Wi-Fi extender can contribute to decreased internet speeds in areas that are served by the extender, there are many other things to consider when you are troubleshooting slow Wi-Fi.

What Slows Down The Internet?

Beyond the extender, there are quite a few factors involved in how fast your internet speed is. Here are a few things that can affect your internet speed:

1. Data Transfer and Connection Technology

The type of connection you are using can make a difference when it comes to your internet speed, as well as the technology within your home. Older routers and devices may be capped at slower speeds due to the technological limits during the time they were made. Also, wired connections are generally faster than wireless connections. The technology delivering your internet also makes a difference. Fixed wireless and satellite internet can be very slow, while fiber optic connections provide the fastest available speeds.

2. Other Connected Devices

The number of devices connected to your network can also affect the speed of your internet. This is because your router shares bandwidth across all connected devices. The more devices you have connected to the router, the more devices the bandwidth will have to cover.

wifi extenders and slow internet

3. Software Related Factors

Another thing that can limit your bandwidth and slow your internet speed is running multiple software programs or applications that need internet access at the same time. Some applications that consume a lot of bandwidth include streaming videos, video conferencing for work, and downloading large files such as video games. If you are participating in several of these activities simultaneously, it can slow down your speed on other applications you can be using, such as checking emails.

4. Hardware Issues

Hardware can affect your internet speed as well. Older Ethernet cords may not have full Gigabit capability, and are only able to transfer data at a certain rate. Also, older radio antennas in routers may begin failing, reducing the speed capacity of your wireless network. Some older routers do not have a 5 GHz wireless radio, which makes their max speed around 300 Mbps. This can significantly reduce your internet speed, especially if you are paying for a higher speed connection.

5. Wi-Fi Signals

The strength of Wi-Fi signals from your router also affects your internet speed. If there is too much distance between your router and your device, you may experience a decrease in speed. This is also the case if you have too many obstacles between your router and your device, such as thick plaster walls. Electromagnetic interference from things like cordless phones can also affect the strength of your Wi-Fi signals, which will reduce your Wi-Fi speed.

6. A Big House

As mentioned above, one of the causes of slow Wi-Fi is distance between your router and your device. This can become an issue in larger houses, especially houses with multiple stories. Older houses with thick plaster or brick walls will also have issues with internet speed in rooms that are far away from the router, as these will interfere with the signal too.

Why Do You Get A Slower Speed With An Extender?

Although extenders can reduce the speed of your internet in the areas they cover, they are not the only cause. However, the following factors can affect the speed of your extender’s internet signal.

1. Interference

One of the most common factors in reducing an extender’s efficiency are other devices in the area creating electromagnetic interference. Microwave ovens are the biggest culprit, especially when they are in use. However, other devices that cause electromagnetic interference include cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, wireless security cameras and more. If your extender is connected to your router with a wireless connection, and there are significant amounts of interference between them, this can cause issues with your Wi-Fi connection.

internet and wifi extender

2. Distance

An extender needs to be near enough to the main router to pick up a strong signal. If the signal between the router and extender is too weak, the extender will not be able to boost it. Also, if you place your extender in the wrong spot, the signal may not be able to go where you need it to go and you will not get the desired results. Ideally, an extender should be in line-of-sight from the router in order to get the strongest signal.

3. Obstacles

Wi-Fi extenders don't work if there is a physical barrier between the router and the extender. This includes walls, floors and furniture. Placing a router behind a couch or in a cabinet is a common practice, but this reduces its ability to output a strong signal and your extender may not be able to pick up the signal to boost it. Routers and extenders should not be placed in cabinets or behind furniture if you are hoping to get the best results from your Wi-Fi network.

4. Outdated firmware

Outdated firmware of the router or extender affects the internet speed. Like most electronics, the software in the router and extender will need to be updated occasionally to maintain peak performance. This is usually done automatically, but in some circumstances the router or extender may not update its own firmware. You can check for a firmware update by logging into your router’s app or website and following the instructions from the brand to update the firmware. Every brand is different, so check the information that came with the router or visit the manufacturer’s website on how to log in and update the firmware. If your router and extender are different brands, you will likely have to log into two apps or websites to make sure your firmware is up to date.

5. Frequency Range

Routers work at two frequencies, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Extenders work by reflecting one of these frequencies, extending the reach of the signal. If your Wi-Fi extender is trying to use a different frequency than the router, it will be useless. Some newer routers do not allow you to create a different network for your 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi. If this is the case, and your extender is trying to connect to the 2.4 GHz network, it may be unable to connect and you will not be able to use it.

How to Optimize Usage of Wi-Fi Extender

If you are installing an extender in your home, you want to make sure it can perform as well as possible. When installing the extender, make sure it is close enough to the router to maintain a strong wireless connection with it. Since extenders don’t create their own Wi-Fi network, they must copy the signal from the router. Therefore, you will want to make sure it is able to create a strong connection to the router.

Can we use multiple extenders?

Yes, you can use multiple extenders to create a larger network within your home. Each extender will need to connect directly to the router. These extenders will send their signal out in all directions, creating overlapping networks of service that your device can switch between based on which one provides a stronger signal. Most devices will automatically choose to connect to the network with the strongest signal, so there is no extra effort necessary on your end.

wireless extender

Alternatives for Wi-Fi Extenders

Many companies now offer mesh router systems, which can provide an advantage over extenders. These mesh systems consist of a primary router and one or more connected access points, which can connect to the router through a wired or wireless connection. However, unlike extenders, mesh networks have the ability to forward traffic throughout the network, directing it to the correct device through the fastest path. Also, mesh networks allow you to keep the same SSID, password and settings throughout the house – and this can be managed through the same app. Mesh systems are made to be easy to set up and easy to extend if needed.

Another option is to use a powerline adapter. However, powerline adapters rely on electrical circuits, and can be difficult to install. They also suffer from slow speeds when the powerline adapter is on a different circuit than the main router, making it difficult to extend throughout an entire home.

Are Wi-Fi mesh systems better than Wi-Fi Extenders?

Wi-Fi mesh systems are generally better than Wi-Fi extenders. Dual-band mesh systems are usually cheaper, using one radio band for backhaul traffic (overhead, interconnection data) and the other is left for the client devices. Many people find them easier to install than extenders, and they are also easier to manage since they are all updated and managed through a single app.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Will I experience slow internet speed with Wi-Fi extenders?

This depends on a variety of factors. A single-band extender will be slower than a dual-band extender, so purchase a dual-band extender for best performance.

2. Can a Wi-Fi extender improve my internet speed?

A Wi-Fi extender can improve performance in areas that are far from the router. If you are having signal issues in a specific area of your home, an extender may be able to improve your Wi-Fi signal there.

wireless range extender and internet

3. Which is better: a WiFi extender or a repeater?

A Wi-Fi repeater is a Wi-Fi extender that specifically uses a wireless connection to the router, while extenders use a wired or wireless connection. An extender with a wired connection to the router will generally provide better signal than one that connects wirelessly. However, they can be less convenient due to the need to run an Ethernet cord.

Conclusion

Wi-Fi extenders cut the bandwidth and provide less speed to connected devices, but they do not affect the internet speed of the larger network. When it comes to overall network performance, there are many factors involved. If you are having trouble with your Wi-Fi network, you will want to make sure you have investigated all of the potential causes of slow and congested Wi-Fi before blaming the extender. If you’ve done your troubleshooting and your network is still having issues, switching from an extender to a mesh system may make maintaining your Wi-Fi network easier and provide better overall performance.

Don’t want to worry about it? Make sure you get the speeds you need and whole-home coverage with a managed Wi-Fi solution. EPB Smart Net Plus offers a Wi-Fi 6 router system, expert set up to ensure your network is working optimally, and ongoing 24/7 support for any Wi-Fi issues you may encounter – all for just $17.99 a month. To learn more about EPB Smart Net Plus, click here.

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