What Is a Wi-Fi Repeater?

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A Wi-Fi repeater is also known as a wireless range extender. It is a relay station that repeats all the signals received from the wireless router. If the repeater is placed at the periphery of the router's range, the signal footprint of the router gets doubled in one direction --- on the side on which the repeater is placed.

Signal Range

  • The repeater has to be placed within the signal range of the wireless router as it has two tasks. One is to forward data packets from the router out to remote receiving equipment, like laptops; the other is to return messages received from those remote units back to the router.

Overlap

  • Placing the Wi-Fi repeater within range of the wireless router means that on one side, the signal range of the router and the repeater overlap. Both devices transmit in all directions. If the repeater is placed to the west of the router, for example, the spare to the west of the router will have twice the amount of traffic as that in all other directions. The router's signal, however, can reach twice as far to the west than in any other direction thanks to the Wi-Fi repeater.

Problem

  • The presence of a repeater can slow down a wireless router. In the overlapping zones of the signal of both router and repeater, the repeater not only sends outlying messages back to the router, but also echoes the router's own signals back, and any signals received from any other device within range of both itself and the router. This means that if a laptop is between the router and the repeater, every signal it sends out will arrive at the router and then arrive again after a slight delay because of retransmission by the repeater. The repeater is indiscriminate in its retransmissions.

Alternative

  • A wireless bridge can solve the problems of traffic congestion created by the range extender. Rather than connecting to the router wirelessly, like the range extender, the wireless bridge connects by wire to one of the Ethernet ports on the router. If the cable to the bridge is extended far enough away from the router, the transmitter of the wireless bridge will be outside the signal range of the router. The bridge creates a signal footprint, the same as the repeater, but communicates with the router over cable.

References

  • Photo Credit Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images
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