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24th September 2020

What is a broadband booster?

Max Beckett
Max Beckett

Broadband expert

What is a wireless broadband booster?

Having a stable and reliable broadband connection in every room of our home is something many of us rely on – especially when you have multiple devices and smart home tech that require access to the internet.

It’s common that those who have a big house or have thick walls in their home will most likely struggle to get a decent Wi-Fi signal in some parts of their home. A broadband booster, also known as a Wi-Fi range extender or Wi-Fi booster, is a useful device that can make your internet signal reach every inch of your home. Our handy guide will explain exactly how it works. 

What is a broadband booster?

It can be really frustrating if there are some areas of your house where your broadband connection is really poor, especially if you’re trying to stream live HD video content or play games online.

A broadband booster is a useful gadget that can overcome this problem by amplifying your router’s existing signal. All you need to do is plug it into a plug socket in your home where it can receive a signal from your router and you should then be able to access reliable broadband throughout your whole home.

Wi-Fi extender pros and cons

Investing in a broadband booster is a low-cost way to improve your broadband signal across your home, it’s also fairly simple to set up and you should be able to use it almost instantly. 

However, despite extending your signal to the ‘dead zones’ (areas in your home that don’t receive a Wi-Fi signal) it can also weaken it. This is because the extender often reduces the speed of the internet for devices using it by about 50%. So, you may not receive the same broadband quality when connected to your booster that you would if you were to connect to your router’s Wi-Fi. 

Where can I get a broadband booster?

Wi-Fi boosters are made by the same manufacturers that create wireless routers with some of the main brands being Netgear, Belkin and D-Link. They are actually pretty cheap and can be picked up for around £20. There are, however, more expensive ones out there that may work more effectively – some can even cost more than £300 – but that doesn’t mean the low-cost boosters don’t do the job. 

You can buy a Wi-Fi booster online or in a number of tech stores – some supermarkets may even have some in stock at times. A lot of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like BT, Sky, Virgin Media and Vodafone offer boosters that may be worth exploring, especially if you’re in the process of switching broadband providers – you might be able to get hold of a cheap one as part of a special offer with your new broadband deal.

What Wi-Fi booster do I need?

Not all Wi-Fi range extenders are the same, so it’s best to choose one that is more compatible with your router, and one that ideally matches the speed of your router. For example, if you have a dual band AC standard router, it’s best to opt for a dual band AC extender for the best performance. This is the same if you have an N standard router.  

How do I set up my broadband booster?

First you need to identify the dead spots. For optimal performance you should position your booster halfway between your router and the dead spots. Most boosters are really easy to set up and it’s usually a case of just plugging it in and pressing a button.

A lot of Wi-Fi boosters offer Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) and all you need to do is press the WPS button on the extender and router. Bear in mind that some booster gadgets are a little bit trickier to set up, so you may need to take a look at the manufacturer’s instructions. 

To start using your booster, all you need to do is connect to the extender in the same way you would with your normal Wi-Fi.

What's a powerline adapter?

Another way to improve the range of your Wi-Fi signal is with a powerline adapter. To put it simply, a powerline adapter sends the Wi-Fi signal through your home's existing electrical wiring – similar to how it would work with an ethernet cable.

Typically, you will receive two devices – one is plugged into the wall and connected to your router using an ethernet cable. The other is plugged into a wall electrical outlet near the device you want to connect. Data is then broadcasted across the electrical wires in your home. 

This is an ideal method if you want to stream HD or 4K video content and play games online using your Xbox or PlayStation in parts of your home where your Wi-Fi signal is weak or non-existent.

Powerline adapter pros and cons

Powerline adapters are a great way of providing a wired broadband connection without an ethernet cable. They are also a great alternative to a Wi-Fi extender to improve broadband range. However, this method can be affected by electrical interferences from other appliances in your home like a fridge, microwave or washing machine.

For this same reason, the speed of the broadband can be affected too. Also, you can’t really use extension leads or external plug sockets so you are limited to the locations of the plug sockets in your home. 

Will a Wi-Fi extender improve my broadband speed? 

A common misconception is that a Wi-Fi booster will increase the speed of your current broadband. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. These devices will provide a Wi-Fi signal in areas of your home where it is weak, but it will not make any difference to the overall broadband connection in your home.

If your broadband connection is sluggish overall it could be that you haven’t got the right broadband package for your needs. If you currently have standard ADSL broadband, you’re likely to only have access to average download speeds of 11Mbps.

This speed is okay for basic internet use like sending emails and browsing the web, but you will struggle to stream HD content and play games online frequently. You can run a speed test to find out more about the speed you’re getting.

Our guide to choosing broadband can also help you figure out if you have the right broadband for your needs.

Alternatively, it could be a technical fault with your ISP and it may be worth contacting their support team for additional help. 

Is it worth getting a broadband booster?

If you’re looking for a quick and easy fix that doesn’t cost much then a Wi-Fi range extender will do the job. It’s ideal for those with large homes and areas where a Wi-Fi signal is weak or non-existent.

It’s also really easy to find one online and in-store and is an ideal way to avoid replacing old and sub-standard Wi-Fi routers. It may not be ideal if speed is important as it will lower the speed you can get when connected to the extender. All in all, it’s a convenient way to ensure internet access in the dead spots of your home.