Monday, September 8, 2014

Extend Wi-Fi Coverage

NETGEAR PLW1010 Essentials
Wi-Fi radio signals all too often fail to adequately cover the desired area, not only because radio signal strength decreases with distance, but also because radio signals are attenuated (blocked) by walls and floors.

The first thing to try is to locate the Wi-Fi base station (also known as gateway, wireless router, or wireless access point) as near to the center of the desired coverage area as possible in order to minimize distance, but that may be difficult or impossible, or simply not enough.

If that fails to solve the problem, many people then try so-called wireless range extenders (actually wireless repeaters), but these devices tend to work poorly:
  • Additional radio traffic cuts wireless network speed by more than half.
  • Interference with other wireless networks may increase, often a problem.
  • May be difficult to locate midway between Wi-Fi base station and weak coverage area.
A better solution usually (but not always) is powerline networking, using existing electrical power wiring (instead of radio) to carry network signals between modules, a base module (left unit in accompanying picture) located next to the Wi-Fi base station, connected by cable to a LAN port, and remote module(s) (right unit) in weak coverage area(s), broadcasting secondary Wi-Fi signal(s).

For best results it's important to select name brand products conforming to the AV2 (AV600 or better) standard, such as the TP-LINK TL-PA6010KIT, which includes both a base module and a remote module.
It's important to plug these units directly into wall outlets because many power strips and so-called surge protectors interfere with network signals.

Testing powerline networking is easy: plug the modules into outlets at the desired locations, and green "sync" lights will turn on if they work. (In some cases they won't work due to electrical wiring issues, so be sure to get a return privilege.) Then it's just a straightforward matter of setting up the secondary Wi-Fi signal.

  • Best Buy stores often stock Netgear Powerline (link). 
  • B&H is a great low-cost source of such products (link).


  1. Works only on copper power wires, maybe it's an option just for some privileged places like SFBA and not for the rest of the world.

    1. Powerline networking works well in buildings with electrical power wiring, as in most of the developed world. It's obviously not suitable for buildings lacking electrical power wiring.