Computers & Electronics

Taking Some Load Off a Router with a WiFi Extender

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  • Jan 15th, 2019 7:46 am
[OP]
Deal Addict
Sep 29, 2005
4630 posts
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Montreal

Taking Some Load Off a Router with a WiFi Extender

If you add a WiFi extender to a network and route all wifi traffic through the extender rather than the router directly, does that lighten the router's load? The same amount of data is moving but the Wi-Fi aspect would be off loaded to a second device.

The reason I ask is that with all my smart home devices I have a lot of Wifi devices and I'm finding that I might be overwhelming my actual router (a standard Videotron Zyzel).

Also, would a Samsung Smartthings hub help matters if I connected my smart switches and plugs to it?
Phils
14 replies
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Jun 21, 2003
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Stoney Creek, ON
Phils wrote:
Jan 13th, 2019 6:52 pm
If you add a WiFi extender to a network and route all wifi traffic through the extender rather than the router directly, does that lighten the router's load? The same amount of data is moving but the Wi-Fi aspect would be off loaded to a second device.

The reason I ask is that with all my smart home devices I have a lot of Wifi devices and I'm finding that I might be overwhelming my actual router (a standard Videotron Zyzel).

Also, would a Samsung Smartthings hub help matters if I connected my smart switches and plugs to it?
I can't speak to the router/extender situation but if your smart switches and plugs are wifi based I don't see how the ST Hub would help. If the switches and plugs were zigbee or z-wave you'd be able to connect them to the SmartThings hub directly without the congestion on your wifi, but if they are wifi based they are still going to have to connect to a router/extender. When I started doing my home with smart devices I knew I was going to have a large number of devices between switches/dimmers, plugs, contact sensors, etc. so I chose to go with Lutron Caseta for lighting control and always Zigbee/Z-Wave devices for the rest so that I could keep them off the wifi network. I have a small home but the number of devices still ends up being quite high so I felt it would be better for my Wifi network to go that route.
Penalty Box
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Feb 10, 2007
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Your router is still routing data.

Get a better router and disable your isp's
[self promotion rule violation, removed twice already][self promotion rule violation, removed twice already]Trolling or Threadcrapping Trolling or Threadcrapping Trolling or Threadcrapping Trolling or Threadcrapping Trolling or Threadcrapping
Sr. Member
Nov 7, 2012
827 posts
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TORONTO
An extender isn't going to alleviate your issue. A hub might help a little but your router is still going to process everything through it.

If you're running an older router then it might be bogged down so a newer one might able to handle more.

I personally find my 2.4ghz channel seems to slow my newer devices down and opt to connect to my 5ghz channels. If possible I try to connect my smart devices to my 5ghz channel if possible right out the gate.
Deal Addict
Sep 12, 2007
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What he said, but keep in mind that:

The extender is chopping your WIFI bandwidth in half, this is what happens when you repeat/extend the signal. The things connected to the repeater will have half the bandwidth to use, compared to when they are/were connected to the router. This may be ok, if it's all IOT stuff they don't use much bandwidth.

If I were you, you would forget about the wireless part of that Videotron garbage, put it into pass through mode, and get yourself a decent wireless router, with better features and better performance.

Asus RT-AC66U and RT-AC86U always are in the top 5 rated.
Deal Guru
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Jun 12, 2007
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Phils wrote:
Jan 13th, 2019 6:52 pm
If you add a WiFi extender to a network and route all wifi traffic through the extender rather than the router directly, does that lighten the router's load? The same amount of data is moving but the Wi-Fi aspect would be off loaded to a second device.

The reason I ask is that with all my smart home devices I have a lot of Wifi devices and I'm finding that I might be overwhelming my actual router (a standard Videotron Zyzel).

Also, would a Samsung Smartthings hub help matters if I connected my smart switches and plugs to it?
WiFi extender won't work. It just extends the range of your existing WiFi. The existing router still need to run the same CPU load for each client like WiFi encryption .

If you want to offload the router CPU, you would turn WiFi off, then add a separate WiFi access point to handle WiFi clients and the associated encryption.

The cost of doing this is almost the same as buying a better router
[OP]
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Sep 29, 2005
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Montreal
akswun,

I'm using the 5 Ghz band as much as possible. There a few devices like my old laptop, wireless printer, and my light switches that are connected to 2.4 Ghz. My Google Home speakers are all 5Ghz mainly because music stops and starts at 2.4 Ghz. The only exception is my bedroom Insignia speaker that kept losing its connection because of the limited range of 5 Ghz vs. 2.4 Ghz. I rarely play music from it and use it mostly for controlling lights and getting the weather, etc.

vodka,
I'm aware that net bandwidth would be halved. However, half a reliable signal is better than an unreliable full speed signal.

The reason for my question was that with my current setup:

My wife complains that her iPad is often in hourglass mode when checking her email and she's getting frustrated.
My Lenovo Smart Display loses its wireless connection too often.
I'd like to be able to play music on my Insignia.
When updating apps on my phone, the download often doesn't start. However, if I restart my phone, the update starts right away.
My Fire HD is somewhat sluggish.
My Android Kodi Box struggles too often. The other day, I wanted to watch something and the addon simply wouldn't stream even though the box is connected by ethernet. I rebooted the router and I was easily able to watch after that.

Lately, the best way to solve these issues has been to reboot the router until it bogs down again a week or so later.

So last week I bought the TP-LinK WiFi extender/smart plug combination that was on sale at Amazon. After my $10 gift card, my cost was only $20 so I felt it was worth a shot. I was already using a smart plug in the spot where I wanted to install the extender/smart plug combo so all I had to do is replace the plug that was there with this device.

After setting it up, I connected the display speaker, my wife's iPad, and my phone to the extender. The problems with them that I noted above were solved. It's been a success so far.

A contributing factor is where the router is actually installed. It's in a corner on my desk next to my desktop computer and other electronics that probably conflict. I don't have a hutch. I believe half the problem could be solved if I can find a better spot for it. In its current location, it pretty much needs to travel through 2 walls to go anywhere. It would work much better if it were placed higher and closer to the door. Moving the router is somewhat problematic because it's near the modem, plugged into a UPS, and I have ethernet cables going in multiple directions. The extender I installed has a much more direct line of sight but it's at one end of the condo probably too far from the bedroom with the Insignia speaker.

As a point of reference, the fastest my phone connects to WiFi is 433 Mbps when I am close to the router but it drops off fast after that. With the extender, the max I get is still 433 Mbps and due to the improved line of sight, connection speeds are better than the router in other rooms. All of that is to say that I am not sure whether my router is actually garbage or if it's really more a question of relocating it. I also have been following the thread about automatically rebooting the router every night as another potential solution.
Phils
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Jul 3, 2017
3544 posts
2409 upvotes
If your router is bogging down from all the devices and traffic, then it's probably time to get a new router. It might not solve the problem of limited range and dead spots in the house, but a better router would have a faster processor, more memory, and more antennas to better handle more simultaneous devices.

Smart home WiFi devices don't generate a high total traffic volume, but they do create a lot of small message traffic. That can impact the performance of WiFi networks, or create a burden on a lower-performance router. That's one reason why it might be better to go with Z-Wave or Zigbee networks and a single hub if you are going to be adding a lot of smart home devices.
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Nov 28, 2016
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I found switching a lot of things off wireless to a direct connect helped a lot. I used the powerline series and once I did and cleared a lot of the wireless things improved all around.

Best option out there, probably not. Worked for my situation. Took a lot of gaming systems off the wifi and that improved everyhting
[OP]
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Sep 29, 2005
4630 posts
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Montreal
Exp315,

For the most part, my router does seems to handle the traffic OK when I connect through the wifi extender. All the issues I listed pretty much disappear. That's what made me ask whether it was a viable solution. If it is, I would buy another extender for $29 and install it closer to the Insignia speaker so music would play smoother. I would then move all my switches and plugs to the 2 extenders.

As for Z-Wave/Zigbee, I'm afraid that ship has sailed. I would have too many switches and plugs to change. It would be too costly not to mention the cost of a hub. Also, I've got figure out how to move my router to a more efficient spot before spending big bucks.
Phils
Newbie
Jun 12, 2018
21 posts
21 upvotes
Phils wrote:
Jan 14th, 2019 1:23 pm
Exp315,

For the most part, my router does seems to handle the traffic OK when I connect through the wifi extender. All the issues I listed pretty much disappear. That's what made me ask whether it was a viable solution. If it is, I would buy another extender for $29 and install it closer to the Insignia speaker so music would play smoother. I would then move all my switches and plugs to the 2 extenders.

As for Z-Wave/Zigbee, I'm afraid that ship has sailed. I would have too many switches and plugs to change. It would be too costly not to mention the cost of a hub. Also, I've got figure out how to move my router to a more efficient spot before spending big bucks.
a couple things:

if you do buy a new wireless router and disable it on the combo modem/router, you can still set up the same network and key. That should result in minimal configuration.

secondly:

It doesn't sound like your router is having issues, it sounds like your wifi is having issues. Wifi can be strange. Long story short, older 802.11ac and wifi in general can be weird. A slow device on your network can actually slow down the entire because it's taking up a tonne of time to talk and older routers can only talk to one person at a time. So one of your 2.4 devices that's far away and always chatting is just slowing down everything else on the band. Add in that your neighbours are also probably chatting up a storm with their wifi, and you end up having some serious issues.

With that said, although I've never purchased an extender, I presume that simply putting a radio closer to some of those old devices might lower the overall speed of the 2.4 but it should become more reliable. You're splitting the speed between the extender and the router, but you're ensuring that one or two devices aren't stealing all of the airtime.

And, back to the first point, getting a new wireless router with a lots of streams, lots of mu-mimo, and lots of radios, would probably give you both reliability and speed unless it's crazy interference.
Deal Addict
Sep 12, 2007
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If you get a new router, set it up to only support the newer radios, and keep the wireless on the cable modem combo to only support the slower radios - if it's that which is causing the issue (the the previous poster's point) then all your new(er) devices will be unaffected. All my IOT devices are put on a separate SSID.
Newbie
Nov 1, 2016
13 posts
1 upvote
Phils wrote:
Jan 13th, 2019 6:52 pm
If you add a WiFi extender to a network and route all wifi traffic through the extender rather than the router directly, does that lighten the router's load? The same amount of data is moving but the Wi-Fi aspect would be off loaded to a second device.

The reason I ask is that with all my smart home devices I have a lot of Wifi devices and I'm finding that I might be overwhelming my actual router (a standard Videotron Zyzel).

Also, would a Samsung Smartthings hub help matters if I connected my smart switches and plugs to it?
No, just remember WiFi bandwidth is limited. No matter how many extender, same amount of data still need to travel in the air and through the router!
Think of a water pipe, even you split the water into two smaller pipe but the bottleneck is still the main pipe.
It is a good idea to remove some WiFi device, since even common home grade router can only handle <20-50 device with ease.

I would:
1) Check is your internet (ISP) slow? If yes, upgrade your internet provider.
2) Is your router slow? Always used up all memory and 100% CPU? Upgrade router
3) Still slow? Hard wire the extender to the router. So not all traffic flow through the air.
Sr. Member
Nov 7, 2012
827 posts
319 upvotes
TORONTO
OP:
with your wifes ipad.... is it newer that can handle 5ghz? I find that my newer apple devices struggle with the 2.4ghz channels. Though 2.4ghz covers a broader area I find it slower.

I constantly find myself having to connect to my 5ghz channel when I'm in my garage.
[OP]
Deal Addict
Sep 29, 2005
4630 posts
653 upvotes
Montreal
n3twork,

I think you are right, My sense is that the real problem I have is wireless rather than actual routing. I'm using 5Ghz wherever possible including my wife's iPad. Because of the inherent limited range of 5Ghz and the less than optimum placement of my router, the one extender I've already installed seems to have solved the issue at that side of the condo. She has been much happier lately.

The only device that could be 5Ghz but is connected to 2.4 is my Insignia speaker because of the distance from the router. My phone connects at 433 Mbps when I'm close to the router. I checked the connection speed my phone gets when I stand next to the Insignia and at 5Ghz, it jumps all over the place with a high speed of 165Mbps and a low point of 27 Mbps. At 2.4Ghz. it's a constant 72 Mbps.

Akswun,

My wife's current iPad and even her old iPad 2 that we let our grandkids use support 5Ghz.

egdeen,
My internet speed should not be an issue. It's 120/20 Mbps unlimited.

I want to avoid spending $200+ on what might be a better router solution, so first I'm going to try 3 things:

1. When I upgraded my internet plan to 120/20 and Videotron supplied their router, I put my old router on the shelf. I may set it up as an access point closer to other side of the condo where the signal is weak. That would also allow me to connect my Insignia speaker to 5Ghz.
2. I've got to find a way to move my router to a more optimal location. Just lifting it up a foot or 2 might be all it needs. I have a 4 drawer filing cabinet in the room so that's a possibility. However, the Router would also have to move about 10 feet.
3. The other option is to leave the router where it is; install the access point on top of the filing cabinet; leave the router to handle 2.4Ghz; turn off 5Ghz on the router and use the optimally placed access point for 5Ghz.

If I do #1, I'm not sure how to get my mobile devices like iPads, tablets, and phones to automatically switch to the strongest signal among the router, extender, and access point.
If I do #2, it will also require a long extension cord to reach the UPS.
If I do #3, even though the access point supports 5Ghz, I don't know how fast and reliable it would be because that router was relatively low end. It might be asking too much of it.
Phils

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