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Does it seem that wireless gadgets are everywhere? Over the past 16 years, wireless speeds increased a thousand fold and over 47 million global hotspots are now available. There are more than 8 billion wireless devices currently in use; two billion of these are smart phones.
Today smart TVs, connected thermostats and security systems are commonplace. Manufacturers are increasingly adding intelligence and connectivity to products not commonly considered “high-tech,” such as Wi-Fi connected coffee makers, door locks, slow cookers and refrigerators. The Wi-Fi Alliance predicts that the total number of connected devices will exceed 38 billion by 2020.
If you have been adding to your collection of connected devices, you may find that your current wireless router doesn’t provide complete household coverage, especially if your home is larger than 2000 square feet or if you want outdoor access as too. The newest 802.11 ac routers provide significant advantages over older equipment.
Wi-Fi routers operating on the traditional 2.4 GHz band reach up to 150 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoors. Routers broadcasting on 5 GHz reach roughly one-third of these distances. Physical obstructions such as brick walls and metal structural components reduce the range of Wi-Fi networks by 25% or more.
There are a number of ways to improve your wireless signal. Locating the router in an elevated, central position usually provides optimal range. Reorienting the antennas may provide an additional boost. Adding a wired access point or second router can extend the range of a wireless network. Setting up a router as a repeater will also extend the range, but at a cost of slowing the throughput by 50% or more. Powerline networking extends the network range by sending the signal over your existing electrical wiring, again at the cost of diminished throughput.
Businesses have long utilized “mesh networking” using overlapping access points – an effective method of providing wireless networking over a large area deemed too complex and costly for home networks – until now.
Startup company eero introduced their flagship product (AC Whole Home Wi-Fi System) as “the first Wi-Fi mesh network solution for consumers” in February 2016. Competing products have been introduced by Luma (Luma Home), Ubiquiti (ApliFi HD), Netgear (Orbi), Securifi (Almond) and Google (Google Wifi). This is a product category likely to see rapid development, intense competition and widespread adaptation
All of these products provide 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity using built-in antennas. All are designed for easy installation by inexperienced consumers seeking good performance and reliable signal coverage everywhere in your home or office. These products do cost more than most existing home network equipment. Kits for a 2000 to 3000 square foot home range between $300 to $500. Buyers are paying a premium for convenience, style and simplicity. On the other hand, you may elect do it yourself and avoid the expense and inconvenience of hiring a professional installer. For comprehensive comparative reviews, visit thewirecutter.com.
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Laurel & Hardy for help with the title!