Wi-Fi range extender (range expander)

What is Wi-Fi range extender?

A Wi-Fi range extender, sometimes called a range expander, is a type of wireless repeater used to expand the reach of a wireless LAN. The device is situated in between a base router or access point and a client that is not close enough to receive acceptable service or one that is on the other side of a barrier.

The range extender connects wirelessly to the router or access point, picks up the signal and retransmits it. Transmission speed for clients connecting through a range extender is not usually equivalent to direct service from the base station, and there is an increase in latency for each hop. Range extenders are more effective for clients that can access a weak signal than for those that cannot access a signal at all.

Important considerations about Wi-Fi range extenders:

  • The range extender must be in range of both the signal source and the client device.
  • It needs the associated encryption keys if the signal is encrypted.
  • It has a static IP address so it isn't identified as a client.
  • The signal transmitted by the device will generally be the same as that of the source.
  • The process works best if the range extender uses the same chipsets and software as the base router or access point.

Vendors of Wi-Fi range extenders include Buffalo Technology, D-Link and Linksys.

Learn More About IT:
> explains how to make several different types of DIY Wi-Fi range extenders (including the "cantenna").
> Lockergnome answers the question "Do Wi-Fi Range Extenders Work?"
> lists important considerations for Wi-Fi range extenders.
> Expert Lisa Phifer explains how to boost the wireless range of laptops.

This was last updated in April 2012

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