Should I worry about the type of free router I'm getting with broadband or are they all pretty much the same? The best broadband deals all seem to come with n routers, would it be worth getting one to boost a cheaper broadband deal?
There are two types of wireless routers you're likely to come across when shopping around for a broadband deal and it is true that one may be better suited to your needs than another.
Wireless routers and the WiFi networks they broadcast work using the 802.11 standard and like all things technological this standard is constantly being worked upon and improved to keep up with the demands of new applications.
The 802.11g version of wireless networking, recognisable as a 54Mbps wireless router or 'G-router', is the current workhorse and is built into the routers given away by most broadband providers.
Be broadband, O2 Broadband, Plusnet and TalkTalk, for example, all send out 802.11g routers with their basic broadband deals.
TalkTalk Pro, Virgin Media XXL and BT on the other hand send out routers with the newer improved 802.11n protocol.
G vs N Routers
So what's the difference between a 'g' router and an 'n' router and why does it matter?
The newer 'n' standard takes advantage of recent technologies like MIMO, payload optimization and nonoverlapping which, aside from having ridiculous names, help to vastly improve data transfer speeds and wireless network range.
The advantages for bandwidth hungry apps like high definition video conferencing, or a large family using the internet all at the same time are clear.
Typically an 802.11g router will be able to deliver a real world transfer rate of around 22Mbps, well down on the 54Mbps claimed. However, some routers operating on the 'n' standard can achieve a rate five times that at 100-140Mbps making the likelihood of technical gremlins appearing very slim.
In addition to this, if you live in an old Victorian terrace for example, you may find that the internal walls are too thick for the wireless signal to penetrate very far and the end result is that you may only be able to get WiFi access in a few rooms.
'N' routers boost range
Intel claim that typically 802.11n routers will deliver twice as much coverage. There are however many variables which affect range, the main one being barriers, such as walls.
So, g or n router point number one: if you're looking for a wireless network that will cover your whole property and maybe even your garden opt for an 'n' router package, if not, and you can't foresee yourself taking part in any data hungry activities, then a 'g' router will probably do you just fine.
If you've already got a 802.11g router and want to extend your network's range it is possible to boost the signal using a second router as a repeater, much like at a music festival where a second set of speakers is placed further away from the stage to allow ravers at the back to feel the full effect.
If you are feeling adventurous then check out this brilliant article on how to turn your old router into a range-boosting WiFi repeater.If you are experiencing any disputes with a service provider or retailer please contact Trading Standards who will be able to put you in touch with your local Trading Standards office or visit the Adviceguide from Citizens Advice Bureau. We are not in any way connected to Trading Standards or Citizens Advice Bureau.
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