Best WiFi connection in the garden: The time of year has come again when you can sit in the garden with a good book, or in more modern terms, browse a little for yourself with your phone or tablet. You may have noticed that your Wi-Fi connection that works fine at home is somewhat disappointing outdoors. In this article, we look at the best solutions to significantly increase the range in your garden.
How far should the signal go?
There are several types of devices that can boost your router’s signal, but which device works best depends mainly on the size of your yard. People who would like to have Wi-Fi in their small garden or balcony can get off a little easier and cheaper than those with a gazebo 50 meters from the back door. In the first case, it is often not even necessary to purchase additional equipment, and the existing network setup is sufficient.
The placement of the device is also important. Is the device simply plugged into a socket near the door, or do you want one that can actually be used outdoors? What you should keep in mind is that you want to keep using the direct signal from your router as much as possible. The simplest devices that can improve the range almost always have a weaker internal radio or ‘booster’ than what is in your meter cupboard. A WiFi signal is unfortunately something that is very sensitive to malfunctions and blockages. Adding more equipment to forward the signal will not benefit the quality and stability of your connection.
Best WiFi connection in the garden – Wifi repeaters and range extenders
As mentioned, the existing network solution in your home may be enough to provide a stable connection in a small garden or on a balcony. If that is not the case, for example due to thick walls or a router that is too far away, a simple WiFi repeater or range extender is often sufficient. You place this in a socket that is as close to the garden as possible.
A WiFi repeater is a very simple device that you can buy for a few bucks. There are also variants specifically designed for outdoor use. These have a housing that is weather resistant to a greater or lesser extent. Outdoor range extenders do not need a power outlet, but operate on batteries or a battery. They also sometimes have a built-in solar collector, so that the device can recharge itself on sunny days.
The big disadvantage of these repeaters is that the weak internal radio transmits the WiFi signal in reduced quality. In some cases only half of the signal is passed through. Also, most cheap repeaters can only handle WiFi over the 2.4GHz frequency. The vast majority of devices that can be connected wirelessly to the internet are active on this frequency. As a result, this frequency is very busy and you will especially experience this when you live in a busy residential area or flat. For the most stable connection, it is best to buy a somewhat more expensive one that also supports the 5GHz frequency. This frequency is much less crowded, but has a shorter range. But if you place it close to the balcony or garden, that shouldn’t be a problem.
If you are not satisfied with the quality of the signal from a WiFi repeater, you can use a powerline adapter. More on that later.
In slightly larger gardens, the use of WiFi repeaters and other simple range extenders is often no longer sufficient. That is because the radio in these types of devices cannot send the signal far enough. Placing multiple repeaters also makes little sense. With every repeater that is located between the router and your mobile device, the quality of the connection decreases by up to 50%. For example, in the back of the garden you might see all the lines on your phone or tablet, but the connection is still of poor quality.
In these gardens, the use of a mesh network is the best solution. A mesh network is a network that is supplemented with one or more mesh routers. Just like a WiFi repeater, the routers amplify the signal from the main router. Unlike repeaters, mesh routers can also work together, optimizing the range of the signal and allowing your equipment to switch quickly and seamlessly between the different mesh points. A standard kit for setting up a mesh network costs between 150 and 1000 euros, depending on the possibilities and the number of routers included in the package.
A group of two or more mesh routers create a kind of chain through your house. The great advantage of this is that the signal is transmitted approximately equally everywhere within that chain. Mesh routers are also available in outdoor variants, with accompanying weather-resistant housing. The big advantage of this is that you can basically place them anywhere. The downside is that they are quite conspicuous, which may be too much of an eyesore for those who prefer a classic garden. Ubiquiti and Netgear Orbi, among others, have developed mesh points for outdoors.
The disadvantage of a mesh network is the relatively higher purchase price compared to alternatives. A standard kit is already quite pricey, but for optimal operation you need several mesh routers that you can purchase immediately or afterwards. Here you can read more about the differences between mesh routers and WiFi repeaters .
Best WiFi connection in the garden – Powerline adapter
With a large or deep garden, you can often continue to use mesh routers for most of the garden. For the rear part, you can pull an Ethernet cable under the garden and connect it to a mesh router, to prevent your entire garden from being full of routers.
You can use a WiFi repeater, which picks up the signal from the nearest mesh router and forwards it. You can also connect this with an ethernet cable that extends under a part of the garden. The disadvantage of repeaters, as mentioned, is the reduced quality of WiFi signals that have already been forwarded. For people who do not want to use repeaters and cannot or do not want to install a mesh network, there is another alternative: the powerline adapter.
There is a network of copper wires in your house to circulate the electricity. However, these copper wires are not only suitable for power, but also for the transmission of data. With a powerline adapter you can send the data (your internet) via the copper wires in the house. You plug the first adapter into the socket and connect it to your router with an Ethernet cable. In the garden (or at another place in the house) you then place a second adapter, which can then distribute data via a wireless (WiFi) signal. In this way you increase the reach of your internet in and around the house through the power network of your home. Power line adapters often send their own signal by default with a different network name and password, but that can easily be converted to the same data that the main router uses. The great advantage of powerline adapters is that they can be placed much further away from home, provided the power network remains the same. That is why it is best to place them in a shed or garden house.
The downside to powerline adapters is the fact that they always need a power outlet that is connected to the same power network as the main router. They also do not work well in combination with a power strip. If your shed or garden house uses a different power network than your house, a powerline adapter will not work. Finally, the quality of the Wi-Fi signal that is transmitted by a powerline adapter is of reasonable quality, but especially the range leaves something to be desired.
A powerline adapter kit costs between 50 and 300 euros, depending on the possibilities and the number of extenders included in the package.
Best WiFi connection in the garden – Mobile hotspots
Fixed WiFi points are often no longer useful for very large gardens and farmlands. If you were to use Wi-Fi repeaters, you would end up with a signal in the back of the garden that is comparable to the dial-up connections from the 90s. Building a mesh network is going to be a very expensive joke. And there is a good chance that a shed or garden house is not connected to the same power network as the main router in the house, so that a powerline adapter will not work either. As mentioned, you can solve this by pulling ethernet cables through the garden, but that takes a while if you want to spread them over a piece of land of tens of meters.
A somewhat more elegant solution is available for these situations: the use of a portable hotspot. A portable hotspot is a small router that works with the mobile 4G connection. You need a SIM card with data to make the router work. You can request a data SIM card from your (mobile) provider, sometimes at an additional cost.
Of course, using data with the router costs money, which is on top of the monthly price that you already pay for your subscription. Also people with a mobile subscription with unlimited data are often not spared. It is therefore often a lot cheaper to use a normal mobile subscription in combination with your telephone. If you use a tablet or laptop, it is best to use your phone as a hotspot.
The purchase price also counts, of course. For a portable hotspot you pay between 70 and 500 euros, depending on the possibilities.