how to increase WiFi range

Why does WiFi need range extension?

All WiFi routers and extenders have almost the same WiFi range, which is typically 20 metres radius in open space. The range can be significantly less in houses due to walls, doors, and other obstacles that reduce the signal strength. Manufacturers of WiFi routers need to stay within internationally allowed maximum WiFi power of 20dBm or 100mw. This limit comes from the limitations of technology, price, mobile devices power, interference, safety, etc.

WiFi limitations

Power and sensitivity

One reason for limited WiFi range is that receiving devices, such as mobile phones, have limited power. You cannot improve the speed of two-way communication without improving the power and sensitivity of both ends.

That is why, while you may increase the power of the WiFi router, you will have a fast download but a slow upload speed, making the connection unstable or impossible. Some WiFi Access points have better sensitivity, but that comes with a higher price. That value is not usually in specifications. That receiver sensitivity is also limited to local conditions, such as interference.

Power and Interference

The output power is usually fixed and balanced with the output amplifier stages of the router. That is to protect other devices, yours and your neighbours, using the same radio frequency range from interference. The WiFi devices may be jammed by your strong WiFi, decreasing WiFi speed or stability.

WiFi Extension options

Here are a few ways to improve WiFi range, most of which involve installing devices additional to the router.

WiFi extender

WiFi range extender device

A WiFi extender is also known as a repeater. It is a device that repeats the WiFi signal from your main router, extending its coverage area. The pros of WiFi extenders are that they are cheap and easy to install. However, the cons are that they can be slow and unstable. When choosing a WiFi extender, make sure it is relevant to the main router specs or NBN plan. You can set up a WiFi extender with a WPS button, or by manually entering the password.

It is essential to find the best location for your WiFi extender for optimal performance. Install the WiFi extender in a place where the router’s WiFi signal is strong enough, yet far enough from the router to make the best use of this WiFi extension.

Over powerline extenders

WiFi powerline adapter for range extension

These devices use your homes electrical wiring to extend the internet where WiFi extender and CAT5 Ethernet cables cannot reach. However, they can be unstable and affected by devices connected to the same electrical circuit. Finding the best electrical outlet for the extender is critical.

WiFi Mesh

WiFi mesh system for extended coverage

A WiFi mesh system uses multiple access points interconnected wirelessly to create a uniform WiFi coverage area. They are expensive, providing quick coverage over larger spaces. Yet, they do not penetrate walls better than WiFi and speed decline after a second point in a daisy chain. Also they emit additional electromagnetic radiation to connect between each other.

When choosing the WiFi Mesh system, consider your homes size and the number of devices you have. The app usually has optimization tools to help you find the best location for the faster speed.

WiFi Access points

WiFi access point for network expansion

An access point is a device that connects to your router via Ethernet cable and extends the WiFi coverage area. Access points are fast and stable, making them an ideal solution for larger homes or offices. However, they are more expensive than WiFi extenders and require professional installation. It is essential to minimize overlapping coverage area between the access points, as this can cause WiFi dropouts.

New WiFi router

Netgear Nighthawk WiFi router for improved connection

If your NBN internet connection is unstable, a new WiFi router may help. However, replacing the router may not significantly improve the WiFi reception. The router, and any WiFi extension for that matter, also won’t be faster than your NBN plan.

Old WiFi router not

While some people are repurposing old Telstra routers as a secondary router on their network, it’s worth noting that these routers are not designed to function as access points or extenders. Using them in this way can lead to WiFi and wired internet disconnections. They are only suitable as a backup for Telstra’s NBN and meshing with their own extenders.

Are 5G routers better?

There has been a hype around 5G routers and their potential to deliver faster and more reliable internet speeds. However, in my experience, 5G routers might not deliver significant enhancements compared to their predecessors, as higher frequencies tend to deteriorate more when passing through walls. This is due to the diminished diffraction of shorter wavelengths, causing the WiFi signal to falter when penetrating materials like reinforced concrete and brick.

That being said, in open spaces and adjacent rooms with gyprock walls or signal reflections through doors or windows, 5G with max speeds from 433Mbs can outpace 2.4GHz WiFi, whose speed is capped at around 50 Mbps.

Routers supporting 5G WiFi (2014) and later WiFi standards, such as 6G WiFi (2020), may provide slightly wider coverage and speeds up to 9000 Mbps. However, this is only possible if:

  1. Your devices also support the standard such as iPhones, which are typically released alongside new communication protocols. A 6G WiFi router requires at least an iPhone 11 (2019), while a 5G WiFi router needs an iPhone 6 (2014), for speeds up to 433 Mbps.
  2. Both the router and devices are configured to use the standard.
  3. Your NBN connection provides such speeds.

Ad Hoc and point-to-point WiFi:

Directional antennas, such as those shaped like a dish, can beam WiFi to a hundred metres within a narrow angle. This is ideal for outdoor areas or connecting buildings that are not in the same location. However, this way is not suitable for indoor use and requires specialised equipment and setup.

Call a specialist

If you have tried all the above and are still experiencing issues with your WiFi range, it is best to call a specialist. A professional can analyse your homes layout and provide the best solution for you.

WiFi speed and Internet Providers

It is important to note that WiFi connects devices to the router, while the ISP connects the router to the internet. The overall speed is determined by the slowest link in the chain. Changing internet providers won’t improve WiFi speed if it’s slower than the internet connection.

For example, if the WiFi speed in a distant room is 40 Mbps and the NBN is 50 Mbps, upgrading the NBN to 100 Mbps won’t improve WiFi speed in that room. It is essential to optimise your WiFi network first before upgrading the internet plan.

The difference between 5G WiFi and 5G mobile

It’s crucial to know the difference between 5G WiFi and 5G mobile, as they’re separate technologies. 5G WiFi is about connecting to a local router at 5 GHz, while 5G mobile connects to a cell tower with frequencies over 3.3 GHz. Even though the frequencies may seem similar, they are entirely different standards.

In conclusion, WiFi range extension is essential for a reliable and stable internet connection in wide areas. There are several options to improve WiFi range, including WiFi extenders, powerline extenders, WiFi Mesh systems, access points, and directional antennas.

May 2015 revised 2023