Does repeater reduce speed?

Repeater reduce speed? A repeater is a network device that receives, amplifies and retransmits a signal to extend the coverage area of a wireless network. Adding a repeater can affect network speed and performance in some cases. This article reviews how repeaters work, when to use them, and best practices to optimize speed.

Does repeater reduce speed?

How does a repeater work?

A wireless repeater functions by receiving an existing WiFi signal, amplifying it, and rebroadcasting it on the same wireless network name and password. This effectively extends the range and coverage area of the original wireless network.

There are two main types of repeaters:

  • Range extenders – Designed to pick up a WiFi network from far away and bring better signal to areas that cannot reach the main router well. They communicate with the router wirelessly.
  • Access points – Need to be wired directly to the router with Ethernet backhaul. Access points do not rebroadcast, but rather act as additional wireless routers on the network.

Does adding a repeater reduce Internet speed?

Adding a basic wireless range extender that relies solely on wireless backhaul can reduce WiFi speeds. There are a couple reasons this can happen:

1. Cut bandwidth in half

When a wireless client connects through a repeater, it has to share the available bandwidth with the repeater itself. Essentially the maximum bandwidth is cut in half between the two wireless links:

  1. Router → Repeater
  2. Repeater → Client

As an example, if you have 300 Mbps bandwidth between the router and repeater, your client device will have a max speed of about 150 Mbps when going through the repeater.

2. Increased latency

Latency refers to the time it takes for data to traverse the network from server to client. Every network hop and retransmission adds a bit of latency.

Since traffic has to make two wireless trips when a repeater is added, this doubles the latency on the network. High latency applications like video chat, voice calls, and gaming don’t function well.

3. Wireless interference

Wireless repeaters operate on the same frequency band as the router itself. Having multiple WiFi transmitters in the same space using the same channels can cause signal interference. Too much interference leads to slower speeds, disconnects, and spotty coverage.

Best practices for optimal repeater speed

If adding a basic wireless repeater, there are some configuration tips to optimize performance so internet speeds are not too heavily impacted:

Use Ethernet backhaul

For fastest speeds, run an Ethernet cable from the router to the repeater to create wired “backhaul” link rather than relying solely on wireless. Wired backhaul maintains full bandwidth which can then be rebroadcast wirelessly.

Place repeater halfway

Position the repeater in a halfway spot between the router and weak coverage area. If it’s too close to router, performance suffers. Too far away and signal will be too weak.

Avoid interference

Make sure repeater and router use different non-overlapping wireless channels to prevent interference. Channels 1, 6 and 11 are common non-overlapping channels. Scan area to see which has least interference.

Match modem speed

Your internet speeds are still limited by your broadband modem package. Don’t exceed modem speeds with high bandwidth router and repeater gear. Match capabilities instead.

Upgrade router first

If router is outdated or underpowered, upgrade it first before adding a repeater. Latest router standards like WiFi 6 provide faster speeds and wider coverage on their own before needing a booster.

When are repeaters useful?

Despite potential for reduced WiFi speeds, wireless repeaters still serve an important role in some scenarios:

Extend temporary range

If you just need a little range boost for a specific area, a repeater can provide cheap, quick support:

  • Reach WiFi to backyard or deck
  • Boost signal to basement, garage or workshop
  • Expand coverage inside dead zones in home

Avoid expensive wiring

Running Ethernet cable throughout a home can require drilling, conduit, patching walls or moldings. A repeater lets you avoid major construction:

  • Connect wired devices like TVs, game consoles, printers
  • Bring WiFi to detached garages or guest houses

Support older devices

If your devices only work on older 2.4Ghz WiFi bands, a basic repeater set to 2.4Ghz may help expand coverage at reasonable speeds.

Key Takeaways

  • Adding a wireless WiFi range repeater can reduce overall network speeds due to halved bandwidth, increased latency, and wireless interference when not configured properly.
  • For fastest speeds, use a wireless access point with wired Ethernet backhaul to the router whenever possible.
  • Position repeaters halfway between router and weak coverage areas and configure non-overlapping wireless channels.
  • Match repeater capabilities to your modem Internet speeds, and upgrade main router first if underpowered.
  • Wireless repeaters still useful to provide temporary range boost, avoid wiring costs, or support 2.4Ghz-only devices.

Conclusion

While WiFi repeaters can slow down maximum wireless network speeds under certain conditions, they remain useful for temporarily extending wireless range, avoiding expensive new wiring, supporting legacy 2.4Ghz devices, and mitigating dead zones.

By positioning repeaters halfway from routers, using wired backhaul connections, configuring non-overlapping wireless channels, matching repeater capability to modems, and upgrading outdated routers, you can optimize network performance when using wireless repeaters in your environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How does a WiFi repeater work to boost range?
A: A wireless repeater works by receiving an existing WiFi network’s signal, amplifying the signal strength, and broadcasting the boosted network back out under the same network name and password. Clients can connect to the repeated network like any other WiFi network.

Q: Why does a repeater cut bandwidth speeds in half?
A: Since data makes two wireless trips (router→repeater→device), a repeater shares bandwidth between links, reducing the max bandwidth available to devices by up to 50% or more.

Q: How does a wireless access point differ from a repeater?
A: An access point needs to be connected to router via wired Ethernet cable in order to provide a new WiFi network zone. It does not rebroadcast, helping reduce speed impacts compared to wireless repeaters.

Q: How can wired backhaul for a repeater boost performance?
A: Running an Ethernet cable from router to repeater provides full speed wired backhaul instead of relying on wireless links. This enables the repeater to maximize WiFi speed to clients from the wired connection.

Q: Should you position a repeater close or far from the router?
A: For optimal signal boosting, place repeater about halfway between router and weak coverage zone – not too close to router and not too far where signal is weak.

Q: Does using the same wireless channel impact repeater speeds?
A: Yes, setting router and repeater to same wireless channel in congested environments can cause interference, slowing speeds. Use different non-overlapping channels like 1, 6 and 11.

Q: Why upgrade your router before adding WiFi repeaters?
A: Newer routers like WiFi 6 have improved range and speeds on their own, reducing need for repeater. Upgrade router first if it is outdated before spending money on boosters.

Q: When are wifi repeaters most useful?
A: Boosting temporary range to backyard/decks, avoiding expensive new wiring runs, supporting 2.4Ghz legacy devices in range-limited areas and filling small home dead zones.

Q: Does a wifi repeater create a new network?
A: No, wireless repeaters broadcast an amplified version of your existing network under same SSID name and wifi password. You only have a single extended network, not two.

Q: Can I boost range with a hardware wifi adapter instead?
A: Possibly, especially devices with high-gain external antenna connectors. But dedicated boosters are designed specifically to pick up and retransmit weak wifi signals.

Q: Do mesh routers work better than a wifi repeater?
A: Yes, a mesh system with multiple access points works better since nodes connect via dedicated wireless backhaul to avoid speed loss. Better for whole home boosting.

Q: Should you get a dual band or single band repeater?
A: Generally dual band is preferred as one band connects to router, second band communicates to devices, reducing speed loss and interference by separating traffic.

Q: Why is latency worse through a wifi repeater?
A: Latency refers to the response time, impacted by number of network hops. Traffic going through repeater makes two wireless trips, increasing latency and impacting real time apps.

Q: Does installing an extra router boost wifi range?
A: Possibly if configured as an access point it can extend usable coverage. But dual router setups require special configuration to avoid IP and DHCP issues.

Q: Can an old router be converted to a wifi repeater?
A: Yes, many outdated routers can be configured to repeater mode with custom firmware like DD-WRT to provide a wireless range boost.

Q: Do powerline adapters work as well as wifi repeaters?
A: In some cases powerline signal propagation allows positioning where wifi cannot reach. But powerline speed loss can be substantial in old buildings.

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