How to decide which whole-home WiFi solution is right for you

A range extender, a router or a mesh system?

  1. What categories of whole-home WiFi solutions exist?

    There are several categories of whole-home WiFi solutions:

    • Combined modem/router (also known as an ISP Gateway)
    • An ISP Gateway + an add-on WiFi range extender
    • An ISP Gateway + an add-on WiFi router
    • An ISP Gateway + an add-on WiFi mesh system

    We will explore each category in the next steps.

    In the last step - we will provide a simple decision table to help you decide.

  2. Most basic - a combined model/router (a gateway)

    For connecting to the actual infrastructure that connects your home - Cable, xDSL, fiber or satellite - a modem is needed. Having a modem is a must you cannot forgo.

    A modem is usually provided by your ISP (for a rental fee or included in your subscription). In some cases, you may replace the modem with a one you purchased - but only with the approval of your ISP as a non-approved modem may harm their infrastructure.

    Most modems have an integrated router, often with WiFi capabilities.

    However, most ISP provided combined modem/routers (sometimes called gateways) do not have the latest WiFi technology implemented, and are also limited in where you could place them in your home.

  3. An add-on WiFi range extender to the ISP gateway

    A WiFi range extender has the function of relaying WiFi messages between your router and distant devices.

    When a WiFi range extender is connected to your router and placed away from it, it effectively increases the range where you can connect to your home WiFi network.

    As every WiFi message needs to be "relayed" (or retransmitted) by the range extender - this may reduce the capacity of your network to handle multiple users devices at the highest speed.

    Adding a WiFi range extender to your home WiFi network is as easy as pressing a couple of buttons, and placing it in the best sport (usually mid way between the main modem/router and where your need additional WiFi coverage).

  4. An add-on WiFi router to the ISP gateway

    While your home WiFi gateway may contain an integrated WIFi router, your add a second - much more advanced and powerful router - to have the latest technology and a much more powerful antenna array for your home WiFi network.

    The add-on router may be just what you need to provide high-speed WiFi everywhere in your home.

    However, as a single WiFi router range is limited and the add-on router can only be placed next to your existing ISP gateway (they are connected by a cable) - your add-on router may not provide the coverage range needed to cover your entire home.

  5. An add-on WiFi mesh system to the ISP gateway

    A WiFi mesh system may be thought of a combination of a powerful router and a range extender.

    A mesh system is composed of multiple units - with one unit connected with a wire to the main ISP gateway, and other units (as many as provided and supported by the manufacturer) connect to the main unit wirelessly.

    The function of the WiFi mesh system is to relay WiFi messages between user devices that are our of range of the main unit, thus effectively expanding the coverage of your home WiFi network.

    Unlike a simple range extender, a WiFi mesh system "self manages" the interconnection between the mesh units - something very difficult to accomplish if you would have deployed more than one range extender - making this setup very easy to install and maintain.

  6. Quick and simple whole-home selection guidelines

    Whole-home WiFi solution selection guidelines:

    • If your home is not much larger than 550sqft:
      • You can ask your ISP to upgrade your gateway
      • You may try to replace your gateway yourself (you would still need your ISP to approve your new gateway selection and possibly to activate it)
      • Your quickest and simplest solution is to add one of the best WiFi range extenders
    • If your home is not much larger than 950sqft and has a single level:
      • You can ask your ISP to upgrade your gateway
      • You may try to replace your gateway yourself (you would still need your ISP to approve your new gateway selection and possibly to activate it)
      • Your quickest and simplest solution is to add one of the best WiFi range extenders
      • You may also try to add one of the best WiFi routers
    • If your home is not much larger than 950sqft and has two levels:
      • Your quickest and simplest solution is to add one of the best WiFi range extenders - placing it within (or very close to) the connecting staircase.
      • You may also try to add one of the best WiFi mesh systems - placing the main mesh unit next to the ISP's gateway and another unit within (or very close to) the connecting staircase.
    • In all other cases:
      • A good solution would be one of the best WiFi mesh systems - with at least one unit for every level (if you have multiple levels) or for every 500sqft of your home.

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