We explain the differences, and why you should not leave every job up to a single router.
Wireless access points (WAPs), and extenders/repeaters are often confused. Both are hardware designed to increase WiFi range and signal, but work in very different ways with different results.
Wireless Access Points (WAPs)
A Wireless Access Point (WAP) connects to your modem/router (sometimes through a switch) using an Ethernet cable connection (hardwired connection). WAPs transmit/receive signals using built-in radios and each radio can talk to one smart device at a time. The more radios, the more devices that can talk to the Internet at the same time. Enterprise grade WAPs (including all Ruckus Wireless products) have multiple radios built into each WAP. Most any “WiFi router” that consumers buy at big box stores or online can only talk to one smart device at a time because they only have one radio.
The key to preventing buffering in your home is to make sure that everything can see and access the Internet as quickly as possible. To do this you need WiFi coverage throughout your home, enough radios to talk to everything at the same time, and WAPs that have multiple radios per WAP to talk to all of your smart devices.
By installing multiple enterprise grade WAPs (i.e. Ruckus Wireless Access Points), you create a WiFi “dome” over your entire home. Regardless of where you are under the dome you connect to the closest WAP with an available radio, and that information gets transmitted from the WAP over a hardwired connection to your modem (from your service provider) and out to the Internet. This is the BEST way to create a whole house WiFi system that is ready to talk to all of your smart devices at the same time.
Additionally with a whole house WiFi system using multiple WAPs, your smart devices are connecting to a single network, minimizing drop outs, non-connectivity or loss of performance.
A repeater/extender’s job is to simply extend the existing WiFi signal coverage over a larger area by taking in the WiFi signal that it sees and repeating it out. The main issue here is that you run into a “Garbage In/Garbage Out” situation. If a repeater/extender is placed too far from the main WiFi router in a home, and it is getting a weak WiFi signal, all it will do is take the weak WiFi signal and extend it further into the home. The user may see full bars of service BUT might have trouble actually connecting to the internet because they are just seeing a “louder” weak signal. Additionally many of these repeaters/extenders will a separate WiFi network (i.e. “Smith Family WiFi Up” and “Smith Family WiFi Down”). Now your smart device needs to figure out which network it wants to join and then actively try and drop off of one network and onto the other each time it is closer to the “Up” or “Down” network. Drops offs like this cause stuttering audio/video, slow load times on webpages, etc.
A repeater/extender installation doesn’t require cables to be run around the home offering a little more simple installation, therefore providing for a cheaper but limited alternative. The main downside is that the repeaters/extenders have to talk in two directions, receiving information from the smart device, then sending that information wirelessly again over a weak signal to the modem/router. Then the modem/router has to send information back over that same weak WiFi signal to the repeater/extender, then to the smart device. All of these “hops” just delays the communication between the smart device and the Internet.
If you are already limited in download speeds this can cause buffering and signal drops, also if you place your repeater/extender too far from the modem/router it can lose even more performance. Unfortunately, the user will see a strong signal while connected to a repeater but without a strong WiFi Internet connection the performance is limited.
Wireless repeaters/extenders are an inexpensive option that really just give the appearance of stronger WiFi without adding any real performance increase, and in many cases decrease WiFi performance. Wireless Access Points (WAPs) prevent these problems when installed correctly. WAPs require hardwired connections to each location but provide your household with the infrastructure necessary to utilize current and future wireless technology. In today’s world we have seen an exponential increase in WiFi usage and need. WAPs provide the best solution to adapt to these ever-changing needs. Your WiFi network is the backbone for all of your smart devices. Allowing experts to properly design and implement the correct infrastructure will insure all devices get online all of the time at the speeds required to perform to their ultimate capabilities.