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The raw brain dump of a software developer

Beware of WiFi Repeaters

Sound like they're what you need but they aren't

Sep 8, 2018 ยท 3 min read

As a follow-up to the networking article I wrote earlier. Bandwidth and signal strength over WiFi was fine, but it's ultimately the latency over WiFi that kills gaming. And so, I went back to wiring my rig to the router. Wiring my machine also meant putting the router in a spot where other devices would experience a minor dip in signal strength. Not a deal breaker, everything still works. But the perfectionist in me tells me I can do more, especially when I have a spare WiFi repeater on hand. Then things got interesting...

Prior work

In the previous article, I mentioned moving capable devices to the 5Ghz band. This would allow these devices interference-free operation at the minor cost of range, which is not a problem since I live in a small apartment. This was achieved via access controls rather than having two separate SSIDs or using band steering. Having separate SSIDs for 2.4GHz and 5GHz is a daunting task when you have a dozen or so devices to configure while band steering doesn't work well with certain devices.

Hooking up the repeater

It all started at midnight when the idea just popped out of nowhere after playing a round of Rocket League. If I'm the only one that cares about latency while all other devices only care about bandwidth and signal strength, would it be a win-win situation if I was wired, and everyone else got WiFi off a repeater? Sort of a niche requirement I'd say, not something you can easily Google. And so I went ahead and tried the approach and...

WiFi speeds fell

Yep, the signal strength was good. Everything was operational. The problem though is that WiFi speeds fell to like 20 times slower. A quick Google search later revealed that a WiFi repeater is essentially just another WiFi client of the main router. Thus, it has to share the bandwidth with other devices on the main router. After that, it has to share whatever bandwidth it obtained across the devices that are connected to it.

So what's a repeater good for?

So the purpose of a repeater isn't for speed nor latency. It's purpose is to provide a strong enough signal strength for devices to latch on to. In other words, it prevents your devices from disconnecting from an access point that's potentially obstructed or is suffering interference. It's also a convenient alternative to an access point since a repeater is usually not wired while an access point is usually wired in a hub-like fashion.

Conclusion

It's 3am, and I left with having no changes made. My rig is still wired, and everything else wireless gets a bar less on signal strength. But in this short period of time I learned a lot, and that's all that matters.

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