For most technically-minded and tech-savvy people, a trip to a local computer store is a fairly routine and common exercise. For others, it may be a less frequent trip, but still necessary to buy and get to know the various technical devices we have come to depend on today. But if you take a look at the networking section of your local PC store to see what’s on offer right now and what new devices have hit the shelves, you’ll be able to come across access points and signal repeaters.
What is a Repeater or range extender?
Wi-Fi access points and Wi-Fi range extenders, or repeaters, are wireless networking hardware solutions that perform specific tasks within a network. Repeaters, also called extenders, are wireless devices that do exactly that. They connect to your existing Wi-Fi network (after some setup) and then propagate a new Wi-Fi signal from your own Wi-Fi connection to give a new signal that will be transmitted where the old signal doesn’t reach.
While repeaters really give a boost to an existing network, you need to consider whether this type of boost is what you’re really looking for, as the more concurrent users on a Wi-Fi network have wirelessly connected to a router, the smaller the share of bandwidth each user gets.
A repeater, connected via Wi-Fi, becomes one of those concurrent users. So, if you have 20MB of actual bandwidth on the main router, and you have 10 Wi-Fi clients connected, you’ll have about 2MB for each. If one of these is your new 150Mbps high-speed repeater, you’ll have an initial bandwidth of 2MB to share with anyone who subsequently connects to that repeater.
Repeater or Signal Range Extender
The initial bandwidth, or backhaul, is your start number on a repeater. If you start low, you’re only going to go in one direction: lower and lower.
It is a suitable solution for certain purposes. Home users with fewer Wi-Fi client devices would find such performance acceptable. Similarly, if you are connecting your main wireless router to this repeater without any other devices connected directly to the main wireless router, you will get better performance. Essentially, you create a higher bandwidth backhaul connection between the repeater and the router, and then you can provide primary access to wireless clients through the repeater located somewhere more strategically in the house than the main router.
But if you have now decided that perhaps a repeater is not the best solution for you. What other option is there?
What about an Access Point?
Wi-Fi access points create the initial radio frequency signal point used to connect wireless devices to a network; Wi-Fi access points are transceivers and do not create an actual network.
To be able to do anything with a Wi-Fi access point, you need to connect it to a router. The Wi-Fi access point uses the radio-based network (wirelessly) to connect devices to the network as if they were wired devices. In addition to creating the original signal, some access points have the ability to be reconfigured as signal repeaters.
In the same way that repeaters are extended wireless base stations for a given network, access points also provide the wireless connectivity you want in that particular part of your network. However, instead of repeating the signal, they take direct power from the router directly to the back of the access point, meaning that all data that needs to come and go between the access point and the router will travel through a network cable. Considering that nowadays network cabling can hold between 100 MB and 1 GB, this is a huge improvement compared to a repeater. So, you can now see where access points actually maximize the device’s features for better performance. To provide this type of network, however, it is necessary to use a physical wire (the cabling). In places with existing networks, this is not a big problem. You simply plug the access point into a given area and then reconnect the access point to provide wireless internet to your private place.
Just remember, they require the physical wire for connectivity.
And those are the differences between the two. Wireless repeaters are useful wherever you want low-bandwidth solutions without the problem of cabling, while access points are useful where it doesn’t matter to put some wiring to ensure a stable, safer and a better transfer rate on the Wi-Fi network.
Wi-Fi access points create the original wireless network signal, while range repeaters receive and relay that signal to other devices to increase the range distance of the network. Some Wi-Fi access points can be configured to function as repeaters, but repeaters cannot be configured to function as access points. The access point is a device connected with a network wire to your main router, and serving clients wirelessly. The repeater is a wireless network device that repeats wireless signals to extend the range without being wired to your router or Wi-Fi clients. The advantage of using a repeater is that there is no need for a cable between the router and the repeater. But we believe that since the launch of mesh networks these technologies will fall into disuse very soon.
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