UK home internet users have a decent choice of different internet providers (ISPs) and packages, but it’s also true that Wi-Fi never works perfect 100% of the time. The signal can be poor in certain rooms, and we want to try using Wi-Fi extenders/boosters/repeaters to improve the signal where we need it. Can you use Wi-Fi extenders with the major UK internet providers (BT, Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Plusnet etc)?
You can use Wi-Fi extenders with any UK internet provider and service, although performance is not guaranteed and speeds may be reduced versus using your main router Wi-Fi or ethernet. Their best use case is in “dead-zones” where there is a weak or non-existent wireless signal.
In other words, yes, there’s nothing stopping you using Wi-Fi extender with any internet package in the UK, and some providers even issue their own extenders either as standard or for an extra fee. Therefore, you can use one of these or buy your own branded one and try that.
Let’s cover all these possibilities in more detail.
Using Branded Wi-Fi Extenders With Your ISP Router
Most UK ISPs already supply their own Wi-Fi boosters as included or add-on perks to their existing broadband/fibre packages, and these will by definition work fine as they’re bespoke for that service.
But if you have your own brand of extender (eg. TP Link, Netgear etc), there’s nothing stopping you using one of those with your router as well, to see if it will boost the signal. You connect them to your router, and they then create and broadcast their own network/SSID that your devices can find and connect to, that might deliver a better signal to certain parts of the home that are getting poor/zero signal from the main router.
However, whilst they should work with your ISP, there’s no guarantee they’ll actually work effectively or improve the speeds you’re getting from your Wi-Fi.
Firstly, performance of extenders is hit and miss anyway, because Wi-Fi performance in general is always unpredictable and variable, even when using extenders/boosters.
Secondly, Wi-Fi extenders are primarily designed to act as a bridge point between your router and a Wi-Fi “dead-zone”, where the current signal/speeds are either very poor or non-existent. If you’re already getting acceptable or good speeds from your main router’s Wi-Fi signal, using extenders is actually likely to cut speeds, since you’re adding an extra “hop” to the network.
Therefore. the benefit you’ll get from using extenders depends on the where you’re coming from originally in terms of the quality of your wireless connection. They CAN improve speeds in their best use case (poor or zero signal/speed), but in a lot of cases they’ll cut speeds and are not strictly necessary. See our article on whether Wi-Fi extenders/repeaters affect speed for more detail on the variability of this issue.
Click here to view our page on extenders, with some popular models in different price ranges.
How To Set Up A Wi-Fi Extender (All Methods)
Once you get a branded Wi-Fi extender/booster online or from your local store, setting it up with most ISP routers is usually pretty easy and quick. Virgin Media are a bit of an exception and can have some compatibility issues with products. Sometimes, you have to go into the router settings and add the new device as a client to have it allowed on the network (see this forum for an example).
But with most ISP services, it’s easy to set up an extender – you just connect it to your router, and it sets up it’s own network you can connect devices to. There’s 3 main ways to do this; let’s cover them in overview steps.
1. Quick Method – WPS Setup:
- Plug the extender in near the router for initial setup and wait for it to initialize
- Press the WPS/Pair button on your router until it flashes/blinks
- Press the WPS/Pair/Connect/Wi-Fi button on your repeater. Sometimes you need to press and hold for a few seconds until it starts blinking.
- Give up to 2 minutes for the router and extender to “find” each other via the WPS feature.
- Once the LED on your extender turns solid green, you know the router and extender are connected.
- When set up via WPS, your extender will share the same network name (SSID) and password as your main router. Find and connect to it on your device’s Wi-Fi networks list.
- Then move the extender round for a better signal if needed.
See our full article on extender WPS setup for more detailed steps if you need them.
WPS Extender Setup – Quick Video
This is the best method for no nonsense installation for non technical users who just want to get up and running using an extender without any complex setup. However, you might find WPS doesn’t work on certain routers with branded extenders (some Virgin Media routers can be a pain with this).
If this method doesn’t work for whatever reason, skip to the next method.
2. Manual Method – On a Device Browser:
- Plug the extender in near the router for initial setup
- Note down login details on your extender on the label and plug it in.
- Find the extender’s SSID (network name) on your device and connect
- Open any web browser on your phone/tablet and type in the access URL (on the label) into the address bar
- Enter the default admin username/password on the label (see screenshot below)
- Set up a new SSID/username/password if desired.
- Find and connect to your router’s Wi-Fi network on the list.
- Either copy or modify your router’s credentials for the repeater.
- Save settings and connect the device to the new extender network, which will have the same password as your main router.
- A green light indicates the repeater is connected and working.
- Then move the extender round to where you need it, still making sure it is within range of the router’s signal
See our full article on extender browser setup for more detailed steps.
If you can’t get this method to work, you might need to log in to your ISP router and allow the extender on the device list. For most UK providers, it should just work fine. I recently set up a TP Link extender with TalkTalk on a browser just fine without any issues.
3. Using a Tethering App:
Basically works much the same as browser setup, except that for TP Link extenders, they also have a bespoke app you can download to your phone/tablet to run through the setup process on. See our post on this method.
Can You Use One ISP Extender With Another? (Cross Compatibility)
Lots of internet users in the UK switch providers or move, so it can be that you’ve still got one extender from your old ISP that you might want to try with your new provider. Will this work?
Cross compatibility is not well covered online, but here is a summary based on my research:
- BT – Their own branded Wi-Fi Extender 300 is specifically stated to work with ALL broadband providers.
- Virgin – They supply older and newer versions of their own boosters, but nothing is mentioned about cross-compatibility, so you’d have to assume they won’t work with other ISPs
- Sky Broadband – They issue their own range of extenders/boosters for their different packages. Nothing mentioned on cross compatibility.
- TalkTalk – You can order Wi-Fi extenders as an extra. Nothing mentioned on cross compatibility, but branded extenders definitely work with them, because I’m using one right now.
- Plusnet – Don’t issue their own extenders, so you’ll have to use commercial ones. Bespoke extenders from other ISPs unlikely to work.
Bottom line – If you’ve got one brand of bespoke ISP extender/booster, there’s no harm in trying it with another service (it’s not going to break the router/service). But except for BT’s universally compatible extender, they might not work and you’ll need to use a branded extender from online or your local store.
Alternative Products – Powerline and Mesh
It’s also important to note that Wi-Fi extenders aren’t the only home networking solution to improve coverage in the home. Powerline adapters and Wi-Fi Mesh Systems are also viable solutions that are better in a lot of cases. Let’s cover each product in turn.
Alternative #1 – Powerline Adapters – Consist of a kit of two adapter plugs. You plug one in and connect it to your router, the other one plugs in and connects to your device. The two adapters then communicate across the house electrical wiring to transmit an internet signal to your device. Some ISPs also supply their own versions of these (sometimes called “HomePlugs”), and you can also buy ones commercially.
They’re a great way of bypassing the need for Wi-Fi altogether and feeding wired connections to devices even at distance from the router.
Powerline adapters – often better for:
- Any other static device with an ethernet port.
- Wireless powerline adapters also available, which provide a cloned Wi-Fi access point as well as ethernet ports.
See our article comparing extenders to powerline for more information.
Alternative #2 – Wi-Fi Mesh Systems – Basically more advanced and more expensive versions of Wi-Fi extenders/repeaters/boosters. They work on exactly the same principle, but instead consist of several “nodes” or “pods” you place around different parts of the house, to really spread coverage more comprehensively over a larger area.
Wi-Fi Mesh – often better for:
- Larger homes and areas
- Higher bandwidth needs (multiple devices streaming), but want to stay on Wi-Fi
- Homes where cheaper extenders don’t provide adequate coverage.
See our article comparing extenders to Mesh Wi-Fi for more information.