Most people want to access the Internet from any room in the house/office and maybe even in the garden or summer house.
However, in many houses, and not just large houses, you will find that the WiFi coverage can be poor or non existent in some locations.
In this tutorial we look at various ways of extending a home/home office network so that you can connect to the Internet from any required location.
Although most people will want Wireless (Wi-Fi) access we will also look at how to extend both wired access and wireless access.
If we start with a basic home network consisting of a single Wireless access point (WAP) that is part of the Wireless router as described in building a home network.
Now if the current Wi-fi signal is inadequate in parts of the house/office or in an out building then we will need to extend the network.
However before you go to the trouble of extending a network it is a good idea to try an get a better signal by relocating the router if possible.
Extending the Network
If we assume that the present WAP (Wireless Access Point) covers area 1 but not area 2 and our task is to extend the network to cover area 2.
To extend the Wi-Fi coverage to area 2 we will need a second WAP (Wireless access point), and this second access point will need to connect to the WAP in Area 1.
There are three methods available for connecting the Wireless Access Points ( WAPs) together. They are:
- Use a WAP connected to the hub on network 1 using a UTP cable.
- Use a WAP connected to the hub on network 1 using Homeplug adapters.
- Connect with Wi-FI using a Wi-Fi range extender or repeater.
Using a UTP Cable
You can purchase UTP connection cables of various lengths which means that you don’t need to create your own cables.
However you will need to run the cable between rooms which usually involves drilling holes etc.
Although this is a very low cost method it is usually not the easiest.
Using Homeplug Adapters
Homeplug adaptors are the more flexible option as they can add network connectivity to any room that has a power outlet.
They work by using the home electrical wiring to carry the Ethernet signal between rooms.
Homeplug adapters can be used to extend a wired and wireless network .
Generally they work in pairs but you can use more than 2 on a network. They plug into the mains socket and usually provide an Ethernet connection on each end.
You simply plug the Ethernet cables into the WAPs at each end.
They also come with built in access points so that you don’t need an additional Access point.
Homeplug adapters with built in Wireless access points tend to be a little more expensive than standard Ethernet ones but are very convenient. Ref– Powerline networking guide
Using a Wireless Repeater or Range Extender
Note You will hear the terms repeater,range extender and booster used but they are generally describing the same thing.
A Wireless Repeater takes a wireless signal and then re-broadcasts it. This means that the repeater must be in range of the original Wireless signal.
It also usually means that the throughput is halved. Some repeaters using different bands i.e. they could use the 5Ghz band for the connection to the WAP and the 2.5 Ghz band for connecting devices.
The repeater creates a second Wireless network which can have the same SSID as the original network.
Because wireless devices on network 2 must go through two wireless hops this connection method is much slower than using an extension cable or homeplug adaptors.
Regardless of how you extend the network you will likely end up with two or more wireless networks.
You can configure these networks to use the sane broadcast SSID so that they appear to be a single network.
You would also need to use the same security settings.
This configuration means that when a user moves from one location, and network to another they don’t need to switch networks.
However some devices have problems with this configuration, so you may want to use separate SSIDs. Ref-
- ASUS FAQ –Why is the wireless network name (SSID) of range extender different from my Wi-Fi router?
- What happens if my neighbour sets his wifi SSID the same as mine?
The Screenshot below shows my home network with multiple Access points and Network IDs.
Using a Old Router as a Wireless Access Point (WAP)
If you have an old router you could use it as an access point or repeater. This PCworld article describes how.
Personally I’m not keen on this as the setup is convoluted, and easy to get wrong, and it is not possible on all routers.
Wireless electrical power sockets are a new introduction to the market and function as wireless repeaters.
They are convenient because they don’t consume a electrical power socket. Here is a picture of a UK socket.
Wi-FI Mesh Networks
These are also relatively new systems that aim to provide Wi-Fi access in larger homes.
They comprise 2 or more Wi-Fi nodes that work together to offer a single Wi-Fi network.
Common Questions and Answers
Q-Can I use an old Wi-Fi router to extend my network.?
A- Yes but it will need to function solely as an access point. The setup can be tricky and because Wi-Fi access points are cheap it is easier to get a new access point.
Related Tutorials and Useful Resources: