Recently there has been a resurgence of “pretty, all-in-one” Wi-fi devices out there for consumers to easily setup their own whole-house Wi-fi systems. Newest on the block are Ubiquiti’s “Amplifi” system along with Google’s Whole-home Wi-fi system, however Apple has been doing “pretty, all-in one network” devices for some time as well (i.e., Airport Express, Extreme, Time Capsule, etc). Although there are better solutions out there for less money, these solutions don’t have nearly the marketing or advertising budget the pretty devices do. Thus, they are not very popular unless you are specifically seeking them out. So the obvious question is, “has anything changed in these DIY systems from the days when Apple first released their Airport Express, Airport Extreme and Time Capsule until now?”
The short answer is no, it hasn’t. In the case of both the Amplifi system and the Google Wi-fi system, they are making use of Wireless Range Extenders instead of more traditional Wireless Access Points to spread Wi-fi throughout the home. What’s the difference you ask?
To simplify things a bit, a Wireless Range extender simply extends a Wi-fi router’s range, however it also limits its data bandwidth as it does so. Wireless Range extenders ideally need to be within pretty strong reach of the Wi-fi router, limiting the amount of “dead-spot” area you can cover with Wi-fi. Finally Wireless Range extenders are limited to the number of devices that can be connected to them, usually 20 or under at any give time. So what’s wrong with that you ask? Well, a lot actually when you compare them to a Wireless Access Point which is also used to extend Wi-fi coverage
A Wireless Access Point (WAP) does not extend a Wi-fi router’s range. In fact, WAP’s can work perfectly fine with a router that is wired only and contains no Wi-fi radio inside it. Rather, a WAP creates Wi-fi coverage over a certain area and multiple WAPs can be used to spread Wi-fi coverage over a very large area. Any network device connected to one of the WAPs can easily jump to the next WAP as it moves throughout the coverage area. As such, a WAP is an ideal solution for covering network dead-spots. WAPs can also actually expand rather than limit data bandwidth, allowing for a greater number of network connected devices at one time.
As you can see, the Wireless Range Extender is much more limiting in terms of how Wi-fi coverage can be extended in your home. As has always been the case since this type of device came was developed, it works best in smaller homes with limited network browsing, little video or audio streaming, and not that many network connected devices. If this is all you require for your Wi-fi network then you are in luck– the cost will be cheap and the setup fairly simple.
However, the reality of the average household Wi-fi network requirements these days is much more demanding– sometimes even rivaling Small Business Wi-fi requirements. For example, it is not uncommon to have 12 network connected components in a home and in a Smart home you may have 20-30 W-fi connected devices. Over half these devices can stream audio and/or video and the rest are constantly pinging Cloud accounts and reporting back status information on the appliances they control. As such, the average network connected household still needs the traditional Wireless Access point to fulfill their Wi-fi requirements. In this more typical scenario, however, the cost will be more expensive (especially if new wiring needs to be run) and the setup usually needs to be done by a Pro.
So in the end, these DIY Wi-fi systems may have a new marketing campaign and new branding but they have the same limitations as always.
We hope you are have found this information helpful. If you are in the Los Angeles area and have more questions about what type of Wi-fi system is best for you, please give us a call at 855-832-4775 or find us on the web at www.technospeakco.com.
And as always, remember that at Technospeak we take the “Tech-y” out of Technology– leaving our clients with the knowledge they need to enjoy their electronics.