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What are broadband boosters?

Written by Max Beckett, Broadband Expert

4 June 2020

Having broadband is a key part of any modern household, but that’s not to say it doesn’t come without its headaches. A loss in connection or weak signal that doesn’t perform to the standard expected can be a source of irritation for any user. If you find your home broadband isn’t cutting it when it comes to Wi-Fi signal in the house, you might want to consider getting a broadband booster.

Broadband signal strength indicator

What is a broadband booster?

Broadband boosters, also sometimes known as Wi-Fi extenders, Wi-Fi boosters or Wi-Fi range extenders, are small devices that help broaden the reach of your Wi-Fi signal. They don’t generate the actual broadband connection, so you cannot have Wi-Fi with a Wi-Fi extender alone.

How to improve Wi-Fi signal

Before you run out to buy new devices, you should know that there are plenty of improvements and simple solutions for improving Wi-Fi signal, including:

Turn off unnecessary devices

The more devices there are on one connection, the slower your Wi-Fi. If you are using your laptop and find your connection drops, try putting your phone on airplane mode. It’s best not to do much gaming online, streaming or video calling while waiting for something important to download on your laptop, for example.

Try cabled connections

If your Wi-Fi is proving too unreliable for your games console, try a cabled connection. They’re generally much more stable and reliable as they experience less interference than Wi-Fi. 

Position your router away from other appliances

Electromagnetic signals from other devices can impact your Wi-Fi performance. The worst offenders for this are washing machines, heaters, cordless phones and televisions, so try as much as possible to find your router its own space where it isn’t squeezed in-between other appliances.

Avoid the floor

Wi-Fi signals don’t travel in straight lines in one direction from the router, they go in all directions. So if your router is on the floor, that means a lot of the signal is heading into the floor and also not reaching as high up as they could. Place your router on a table where possible.

Change your Wi-Fi password/ID

If these changes in your Wi-Fi are very recent and you always had perfectly good signal beforehand, you might have had someone connect to your Wi-Fi and start sapping your signal. You can boot any imposters off your connection by changing your Wi-Fi password and ID to something less obvious. You can do this in your router settings, but if you’re struggling, call your provider for help.

How to improve Wi-Fi signal upstairs

If you live in a multi-storey house, then the location of the router is doubly important as it not only needs to serve every room on the floor the router is on, but also upstairs. The best tips for getting a router to work as well upstairs as down include:

Central placement

If you need your Wi-Fi to be as strong upstairs as down, try placing your router in the hallway or in a central location like a side table near the door (not against an outer wall) in the living room. If you place it tucked away in the corner of the kitchen, for example, it’s unlikely you’ll get a very strong signal on the other side of the house.

Try to avoid placing it in single-storey extensions as well, or else your signal is simply going up and out, not serving any of the second floor.

High-up

Similar to the tip about not keeping your router on the floor, if you want your signal to reach higher rooms, give your router a higher perch as close to the ceiling as possible. While this may cause you to strike a compromise between central location and height (although a shelf in the hall might be ideal) it would still be better to have the router high up than on the floor. 

Stay on top of updates

Sometimes your router may need an update in its driver or other software to make sure it’s running at its best. Some routers will do this automatically, but it’s always best to be sure by checking in your router settings.

How to improve Wi-Fi with a broadband booster

If none of the above has proven fruitful, it might be time to consider a broadband booster. Boosters aren’t a particularly expensive investment and they can be the difference between Wi-Fi across your whole home, or being limited to just a few rooms. 

In most cases, you can simply head out, buy an extender and set it up, though you should always check with your provider if they would happily provide this service. The following suppliers, for example, offer a Wi-Fi promise to make sure all your rooms can receive signal:

How to boost Sky Wi-Fi

Sky offers a Wi-Fi Guarantee. This means that you should be able to get at least 3Mbps of speed in every home or get your money back. The offer is part of its Sky Broadband Boost pack which, once subscribed to, means you’ll be sent a free broadband booster if your performance isn’t good enough. If you go for a Sky TV and broadband deal, the Sky Q box also serves as a Wi-Fi booster.

How to boost BT Wi-Fi

BT Plus customers are able to benefit from the Keep Connected Promise. This means you get up to three boosters to help you ensure Wi-Fi reaches every room in your home. Plus customers do have to pay extra for this ‘Complete Wi-Fi’ package, which over the course of a year may have covered the cost of several broadband boosters outright.

How to boost Virgin Media Wi-Fi

Virgin Media’s ‘Intelligent Wi-Fi’ uses boosters to improve your home’s Wi-Fi signal. These are offered to customers who can prove lack of coverage using Virgin’s app that measures your signal in each room. Depending on your plan, you may pay a small monthly fee for use of the boosters. 

Independent Wi-Fi boosters

You can purchase Wi-Fi boosters without going through your supplier and, depending on what charges your supplier imposes, you might end up saving money in the long run. Boosters are easy to find online and simple to set up, many boosters simply plug into the wall much like a timer switch. Make sure to look out for the following:

  • Whether it is wired (plugging into an internet socket) or it connects to your router by Wi-Fi

  • Is it able to be managed remotely via app? This may be a handy extra 

Will a broadband booster fix poor Wi-Fi signal?

A broadband booster isn’t a guarantee that you will have a good signal in every room, and even if you do end up having some semblance of Wi-Fi across the home, it’s no promise that it’ll be strong enough to allow you to stream, game or do whatever it is you want to do. Before setting up boosters, you may want to consider if your home broadband deal is sufficient for your needs.

If you have ADSL broadband, for example, and you are hoping for multiple users to be able to constantly stream and game, then you will almost certainly not achieve this on standard broadband and should look for fibre optic broadband deals. Even on a superfast connection, if your household consists of lots of avid streamers, you might want to look for ultrafast options.