Wireless Bridge Vs. Repeater

By Stephen Byron Cooper

Wireless bridges and repeaters are two networking devices. The wireless version of a repeater is called a "range extender." A wireless bridge enables non-wireless devices to connect to wireless networks. These two devices have very little in common.


A network bridge connects two segments of a network. In commercial environments, the bridge is used to divide up a large network into segments and thus reduce the number of computers in contention on each section of the network. In home networking, devices that enable non-wireless equipment to connect to the Wi-Fi network are marketed as wireless bridges, or Ethernet bridges. The premise is that the bridge links to the non-Wi-Fi equipment via a cable, and to the wireless network via a radio transmitter. Hence, the wireless bridge connects the wired and the wireless segments of the home network.


A repeater boosts a signal traveling over a network cable. Signal voltage deteriorates after a certain distance. This is called "attenuation." If a greater distance needs to be covered, two cables are connected together by a repeater. The repeater boosts the voltage of the signal so that it can travel over the second segment of the path with renewed power. The repeater does not deal with the other limitation on cable length, however, which is distortion. The repeater boosts all signals, including interference.

Range Extenders

A better comparison between wireless bridges and repeaters can be made with the repeater's wireless counterpart -- the wireless repeater, or range extender. The range extender is an amplifier. When placed within the outer edge of a wireless router's broadcast footprint, it makes the signal available to areas of the building beyond the original range of the router. The signal footprint of the repeater overlaps that of the router, enabling the broadcast of signals from transmitters out of range of the router but in range of the repeater to be relayed back to the router.


Although range extenders reach areas beyond the range of the central router, they also bounce back all the router's traffic, creating congestion and slowing the network. A wireless bridge can used as a transmitter in a remote location in a building, carrying the signals back by cable to another bridge within range of the router. This eliminates the problems of the router's signals being repeated back to it, as the bridge does not automatically repeat all the signals it receives. Laptops within range of the remote bridge communicate via wireless, then over cable and then via wireless again, to the wireless router. Alternatively, the wire of the remote bridge can be run directly to the router and plugged into a port. Another method is to use the household's electric wiring system to take the wireless bridge's signals back to the router. The wireless repeater offers an exclusively wireless solution to reaching out of range locations. The bridge combines wireless and cables networking technology.