Wireless networks are the norm these days in commercial, as well as residential settings all over the world. One problem that invariably affects any wireless network is low signal strength. The problem is inherited by the technology due to its dependence on a radio link for communication.
Physical obstructions can lead to a weakening of the transmitted Wi-Fi signal, which necessitates the use of a wireless repeater device. For those of you who are wondering about how does a wireless repeater work, here is an explanation in a nutshell.
About Radio Communication Problems
To understand the working and need for a wireless repeater, we digress a bit to get some background in the basics of radio communication. This will make it easier for you to grasp the working of a wireless repeater. All of wireless communication is based on the use of electromagnetic waves for transmission of data.
By nature, such waves are disturbances in the electromagnetic field traveling at the speed of light and they decrease in amplitude as they spread through space. This decrease in the strength of electromagnetic waves is inversely proportional to the square of distance they travel through.
Wi-Fi technology uses high frequency radio waves to connect devices with a wireless router and is therefore plagued by the inherent problem of signal strength loss with distance. The range provided by a wireless router is totally dependent on the transmitting power and it is inevitably limited by signal strength reduction.
That's why wireless signal repeaters are used to amplify weakening signals and extend the overall range. Let us see how these devices function in the following section.
Working of a Wireless Repeater
Wireless repeaters have been in use since the first radio transmission stations were set up, to combat signal attenuation. Also known as 'Wireless Range Extenders' and 'Wireless Range Boosters', these devices are a necessary addition to any wireless network, that needs to extend range beyond inherent limits. Here is a step by step analysis of its working.
Step 1: Wireless Router Transmits Signal
The wireless router is connected with the modem which provides connectivity with an ISP (Internet Service Provider). It receives data through the modem, encrypts it, modulates the signal onto a 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz transmission frequency and transmits it. This signal is received directly by wireless adapters fitted in laptop computers and other mobile devices.
Step 2: Wireless Signal Repeater Receives Signal
Wireless signal repeaters are installed at the periphery of signal broadcast range boundary of the router. These signal repeaters have built in antennas, tuned to receive the router's transmitted signal, which is usually considerably weakened by the time it reaches till them.
Step 3: Wireless Repeater Amplifies and Retransmits Signal
Once a signal is received, it is amplified and retransmitted by the repeater at a higher amplitude. It preserves all the signal information and transmits it back again. Ergo these devices are known as 'Repeaters', as they repeat what is transmitted by the router, without making any changes.
They are built on the same wireless networking standard (802.11 a/b/g/n) as the router, to ensure compatibility. The retransmitted signal is encrypted and modulated in the same way as the originally received signal.
In this way, wireless repeaters function like relays to receive and retransmit Wi-Fi signals and strengthen signal amplitude, which leads to a substantial increase in coverage range. Installing a repeater makes good sense when there you find it impossible to increase a router's coverage range beyond a certain limit.