So you’ve tried these steps to improve your home Wi-Fi connections on fibre broadband without spending a single cent. But you’re still not getting the results you want. Well, here are 2 popular home Wi-Fi networking options: Wi-Fi mesh networks (like Google Wifi) and Wi-Fi extenders (or Wi-Fi repeaters and boosters). We give you the lowdown on how they work, the pros and cons of each solution, their differences and ultimately, how to decide what’s best for your home.

 

But first, let’s talk about the typical home fibre broadband Wi-Fi setup:

Understanding Home Wi-Fi Setups

The above is how most home fibre broadband Wi-Fi networks are set up. We get our Wi-Fi from a router, which acts as the Wi-Fi point. Unfortunately, most of today’s routers haven’t caught up with the way we “consume” Wi-Fi. Most homes have multiple users on multiple devices, on high-bandwidth activities like downloading, streaming and video calls. Plus, we’re mobile, moving from room to room as we watch, call, work and play. Don’t forget the many other factors (home type, obstructions, etc.) that can cause frustrating Wi-Fi dead zones and slower speeds. The following 2 options work by either boosting your original Wi-Fi point (“router”), or by adding more Wi-Fi points in your home.


Wi-Fi Extenders / Wi-Fi Repeaters

A common home solution, the Wi-Fi extender works by picking up the wireless signal of your router and repeating it. Your setup remains the same, except now you’re adding a range booster. You plug it into a socket, “pair” it with your router, and it’ll carry your original fibre broadband Wi-Fi signal further, so it’s closer for you to connect to. It boosts range, but not strength, and is highly directional. In fact, the signal strength is usually halved.


Using extenders creates a new Wi-Fi network (with a different name/SSID) on top of the one by your router. When near your Wi-Fi extender, you’ll be connected to its network. But once you’re too far, you’ll likely “reconnect” to your router’s network. That’s why people who use Wi-Fi extenders sometimes report experiencing dropped connections when they move from room to room.


Wi-Fi Mesh Networks

A new and increasingly popular solution in home networking, Wi-Fi mesh use multiple “Wi-Fi points” to create a single yet much wider Wi-Fi network. They don’t repeat the signal like extenders. Rather, they spread Wi-Fi points across your home, each giving you a dedicated fibre broadband signal. This means you can get Wi-Fi from any of these points instead of only a single router.

 

These Wi-Fi points connect seamlessly and wirelessly with each other. You can add as many Wi-Fi points as the space requires. You only need the primary Wi-Fi point to be connected to your ONT, and that replaces your traditional router.


More importantly, these networks are self-healing. This means that when any Wi-Fi point fails (other than your primary Wi-Fi point), you’ll be automatically re-routed to the next best Wi-Fi point, thanks to smart stuff called dynamic routing. In short, it always ensures you’re on the fastest and strongest Wi-Fi connection, no matter where you move within your home.


Google Wifi

One such Wi-Fi mesh is Google Wifi, which you can get with StarHub Fibre Broadband or Cable. It comes in a pack of three Google Wifi points. Each point covers up to 85 square metres, which is solid coverage for a typical 3-room HDB flat. Using all three points gives you Wi-Fi coverage around 170 – 255 square metres. You start with what you need, and add on more points in problem spots if any.

 

Besides the sleek design you’ve come to expect from Google, their mesh system employs what they call “Network Assist” technology. This is always working in the background to connect you to the fastest Wi-Fi point, on the least congested channel and on the fastest band.

 

And everything is done on the Google Wifi app. You can:

  • set up your network in 3 steps (including network name & password)

  • see which devices are connected and how much bandwidth each is using

  • block undesirable websites or set Wi-Fi curfews/time-outs for your kids

  • decide which devices should get the most bandwidth

  • set up guest Wi-Fi networks

 

That’s all done on your phone. This makes using, controlling and troubleshooting your Wi-Fi very much easier. And with numerous positive reviews so far, Google seems to have created a truly smart, simple and user-centric experience. It’s designed to be painless and even enjoyable for the everyday consumer who simply wants to get connected with minimal fuss.

At A Glance

Home Wi-Fi Solution

Wi-Fi Extenders & Repeaters

Wi-Fi Mesh Networks

How It Works

Add it on to a typical home Wi-Fi setup and it takes your router’s signal further.

Replaces the router and gives you multiple “routers” or Wi-Fi points at home.

Signal Strength (which determines your connection speed)

Boosts range (distance) but halves the signal strength.

Each Wi-Fi point gives you a dedicated connection without losing signal strength.

Coverage

Focuses on a problem spot or area. E.g. one particular wall that’s blocking the Wi-Fi signal to your master bedroom.

Maximises coverage by using multiple Wi-Fi points to form a single, much wider Wi-Fi network.

Flexibility

You can add more extenders, but it will halve the signal strength each time.

You can add as many Wi-Fi points as you need (or as costs will allow).

Set-Up

Despite recent improvements, “pairing” to your router can still be challenging.

Can be set up with simple taps on your phone.

Extra Features

Most extenders are no-frills. But more powerful extenders can let you check Wi-Fi strength or measure channel interference.

Often have more features that let you check Wi-Fi strength, set priority devices (who gets more bandwidth), see who is connected at any time, or set Wi-Fi curfews for your kids, etc. And all can be done on your phone.

So should I get a Wi-Fi extender? Or a Wi-Fi mesh like Google Wifi?

 

Wi-Fi extenders are focused on solving a problem spot than as an all-round home solution. If you have several Wi-Fi dead zones or live in a multiple-storey home, it’s worth upgrading to a Wi-Fi mesh system. It aims to maximise coverage on a single fibre broadband network. And it has the added advantage of flexibility: you can add as many Wi-Fi points as you need (or as much as cost allows) to widen your Wi-Fi coverage without affecting your connection speed for everyone at home.

 

It’s impractical to use more than one Wi-Fi extender. Remember, every addition will halve the strength of the source signal it’s boosting. You’ll also be forced to deal with reconfiguration and a new Wi-Fi network each time.

 

To help you decide, first find out how many problem spots you have at home and where they are. If it’s only one room or a specific area where fibre broadband connection is poor, an extender may be enough for your needs. Otherwise, it makes sense to explore a mesh network like Google Wifi. By investing a bit more, you can get peace of mind with a more comprehensive Wi-Fi solution, and likely enjoy a much simpler, more intuitive and well-designed everyday user experience.


1 Housing Development Board, HDB Flat Types and Sizes:
http://www.hdb.gov.sg/cs/infoweb/residential/buying-a-flat/resale/types-of-flats



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