It’s interesting to consider how extenders will fare in the future. Designed to make up for the range-related shortcomings of Wi-Fi, it doesn’t seem that extenders will be going anywhere in the short term thanks to WiGig. Considered an in-room technology, WiGig, also known 802.11ad, may have transfer speeds of up to 7 Gb/s, but throughput suffers dramatically as soon as you step out of a room. Because of this range limitation, 802.11ac will have a continuing role as a backbone for the home network, extending the need for Wi-Fi extenders, at least for a little while longer until 802.11ax comes along.
If anything, two current enterprise standards that are now in development for the consumer market, 802.11k and 802.11r, are being geared up to improve roaming between access points, routers and extenders. With current extenders, a second set of SSIDs is created so that the extender can service devices out of range of the main router, which works great for stationary wireless devices. However, roaming devices would need reassigned SSIDs to stay connected. Used together, 802.11k and r provide a service called Seamless Roaming; 802.11k lets the client device quickly identify and remember an available access point when a signal weakens, while 802.11k uses a feature called Fast Basic Service Set Transition (F-BSST) to streamline the authentication process between access points. Once established as a consumer feature, Seamless Roaming can eliminate the need of having more than one or two SSIDs.
Another wireless networking technology that may have an impact on where extenders are used is mesh networking. Made up of small, individual networking nodes, mesh networks for the home are designed to produce reliable coverage. Each node in the network acts like a relay providing coverage for its particular zone and can back up a neighboring mesh node in case the latter stops working. The concept of mesh networking is not too new as it’s used in both enterprise and metropolitan environments. However, home usage is still in its infancy. If priced correctly and the performance is competitive enough, we can see mesh networking, in one form or another, affecting the Wi-Fi extender market.