When I first moved to my current house I realised that having the router upstairs was going to cause problems as I had a TV and PVR in the living room that required wired internet access. I solved this quickly with some Solwise Homeplugs. I’ve never regretted buying from Solwise, their products are good value for money, reliable and Solwise themselves provide excellent customer services. However, I rushed into purchase without thinking of the long term solution. Now I have a much greater bandwidth requirement and for more devices. The result is that I’m now looking at replacing my current configuration.
One additional issue I had was with WiFi. With a 3 storey house and an extension on the back getting the WiFi to stretch, particularly as the router is at the very front of the house, was going to be tricky. I resolved this by making use of my Homeplugs and buying another from Solwise, but with WiFi built-in. This essentially takes the internet connection, provided via the Homeplug, and adding an additional WiFi access point. It resolved the problem although it was not without issues – Linux devices (my Macbook included), for instance, did not like both WiFi signals having the same SSID so I ended up creating seperate ones that both have to be set up up on my devices so they can roam from one to another when required.
One thing the Solwise solution didn’t give me was a modern dual band connection (and in particular, simultaneous dual-band), which my BT Home Hub does. With my Homeplug solution facing an overhaul this was the perfect time to rectify this. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. I cannot find a single manufacturer that produces Homeplugs with dual band WiFi (OK, Solwise do but it’s switchable – you have to choose the band you want to use).
There are a number of possible solutions (Access Point connected to a HomePlug) but they’re either expensive or just not very easy to do. In the end I settled for a WiFi Extender. These devices connect to your existing WiFi connection and then transmit a new one. They are therefore restricted, positioning wise, to within a reasonable distance of your existing WiFi.
The BT Dual-band Wi-Fi Extender 600 (or BT WiFi Extender as I’ll now call it) is a matt black device, about 12x7x8cm, that plugs into a mains socket. There are a number of lights on the front but most of these are redicated to showing you whether the device is too far or too close to your router.
The easiest way to set up the device is to use, if you have one of your router, the WPS button. The BT WiFi Extender has one on the front – simply press the one on your router and then press the one on the Extender and they will pair with each other. Theoretically, anyway, as it didn’t work for me.
The next method is to connect to the device via a browser and use the simple administration screens to provide your existing WiFi details. The extender will then connect to it and retrieve the required details.
Whichever method you use it will create a duplicate point – SSID, password and channel will be identical. The lights on the front will tell you if you’ve positioned it too close (you won’t be getting maximum coverage) or too far (it will struggle to get a good signal from the router). Even when you have it just right you may find it varies – as people move around, wireless devices are used and doors are opened and closed you may find the strength changes – in my kitchen it will happily go from “Good range” to “Too far” within a matter of hours. My solution was to place it somewhere where it, theoretically, was a little too close. Then, worst case, it moves to “Good range”.
So far, so good. The signal is excellent and the speed is too and it’s extremely easy to use.
Unfortunately, and it’s not the fault of the device, we’re back to my earlier issue with Linux. It doesn’t like the duplicated WiFi signal and I often found, in this case my Chromebook, would take an age to connect to WiFi. The solution, as before, was to give it its own SSID.
To do this you first need to find out what the IP address of the Extender is – the documented IP is only what it is when it’s not yet configured and if you try to supply a different SSID at this stage as soon as you connect to your router you’ll find it resets back to that one again. I found the best way was to access your router’s admin screens and list the connected devices. From that I could find the relevant IP. Access the admin screens and you can change both band’s SSID and password (each can be different if you wish). Sadly you can’t change the channel and even if you change the channel of the router the Extender will automatically change to match it. Once done, I’m back to using two SSIDs but it all works without a problem.
There is also an Ethernet connection on the device which is handy too – certainly if you have, say, a Smart TV which doesn’t have WiFi.
Instructions are provided by a simple, but informative, fold-out sheet. This covers the basics but it’s a shame it doesn’t provide a useful link to where more details information can be found. The device can also have its firmware updated too but there is no documentation about this or where to go to get it.
The packaging is quite minimal and it makes use of a moulded box to hold the Extender which is good. I’m not quite sure if an Ethernet cable was needed as they are cheap to purchase and probably not used by everyone. I’m also not sure why the Extender needed to be placed in a bag either, or why there was a thin strip of protective film on just one section of the device.
It provides fast WiFi speeds, looks smart and is easy to use. Only a lack of documentation for the power-users amongst us is lacking.