Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a small commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you. For more information, please visit our Disclaimer Page.
Modems are how you get an internet signal from your service provider, and routers are the primary means by which you can distribute that signal to all the devices in your home. Although many internet service providers will provide a modem for their customers, there are end users who would like to shop around for the specific make or model of router that they like.
There are several brands out there, and each one makes several models from which you can choose. With so many options, it can be difficult to know which kind of router is right for you. There are specific designs that come with multiple antennas sticking up, further adding to the confusion some newcomers might have when they’re trying to figure out what product to buy.
We will discuss these types of routers in our article today. We can take you through the main reasons why some models have more than one antenna, why this might be important, and how routers with several antennas might work differently from their counterparts that feature only one.
Additionally, we can discuss the opposite type of router that doesn’t have any antenna visible at all, how it works, and why there is such a contrasting market for internet access equipment like this.
How Do Router Antennas Work and Why Are They Important?
Router antennas work by building a bridge between the transceiver components inside the casing of the router and the Wi-Fi signal going out to your devices. Their importance is in how they extend the signal’s effective range.
The modem sends the single signal from your internet service provider to your router.
Typically, your router is somewhere close to your modem. The router “catches” the signal that your ISP gives you, and it then uses its own transceiver to send that single one out to different devices in your home.
However, most routers need a way to broaden the coverage of that signal strength, and an antenna is what provides this method. If you had a router with no antenna whatsoever, its signal strength would probably only get out to within a few inches of the device itself. In other words, you would need to keep any device you wanted to use for accessing the internet very close to the router in order to get coverage. As you might imagine, this is not feasible.
Thanks to your router’s antenna, you should receive good signal strength for a home Wi-Fi network anywhere in your house or office. Of course, part of this will depend on the placement of the router itself. Even with an antenna, you will still want to put the router somewhere that can make sure the signal gets to every room in the home.
Many of them can even reach between floors, but larger, more expansive houses may need more than one router, even if they have antennas to spare. You should also keep an eye on the signal strength of your modem, as this is what your ISP is sending out.
That signal strength can affect how much potential the router has when it comes to making sure all of your devices stay online.
Why Do Routers Have Multiple Antennas?
Although your home environment might not seem particularly complex, it is fairly complicated for your router. This is a device that has to operate alongside many other routers or modems sending out signals. Further, this is particularly true in apartments where there might be modems and routers all around you. We must add all the various surfaces in your home to this equation, too.
The router’s job is to send out the internet signal to your device, but there are many things that can obstruct this signal when it is on its way to a smartphone or laptop. This is true even if your device is nearby. To combat this issue, some routers use more than one antenna. In doing so, the same reflections we’re talking about must happen at least twice.
With only a single antenna, the signal can take a less direct route that makes it weaker. Parts of the same signal could break up en route to the devices you have, and that would cause the whole thing to create a sort of dead zone where you don’t have the Wi-Fi access that you should.
By making sure the reflections need to happen more than once, the multiple antennas on some routers reduce the probability of this dead zone occurring while you’re using your devices. Therefore, several antennas on one router could increase the reliability of the signal.
While the above facts are true for pretty much all routers, the more modern designs use what technicians call beam forming. With beam forming, the router works with the devices that want to get the signal from it.
The electronics interact with each other by establishing a frequency with one another. In most cases, this frequency should be the least destructive type that they can create together. Thanks to the multiple antennas connected to the router, it can produce at least two signals that are out of phase for constructive interference.
All of this covers the more useful aspects of why some routers have more than one antenna with which to work. However, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that, in some cases, antennas can be decorative. Most manufacturers will only put antennas that they think will be useful on their routers.
There are some models that may seem like they have an excessive number of them, though. In these cases, some of them probably do the job we described above. However, others might not even have an actual connection to the router itself. For the most part, you should only see these on some gaming routers as a way to make their aesthetics more appealing to the target audience.
Can a Router Work Without an Antenna?
Yes and no. Whether a router can still work without an antenna depends on the use case that you have for it. Most people want to use a router as a way to have a wireless access point that exists between it and the modem.
By doing it way, their computers and other devices get to have an internet connection via the home Wi-Fi network.
If you do not need to use a router in this way, it could still work without an antenna. Even so, this may only be true for routers that have removable antennas by design.
If you do want to remove the antenna, it is possible that the router will still output a low signal that you can catch when your device is very close to it. Otherwise, you would have to connect your computer to the modem directly via an ethernet cable.
Routers that are not meant to use Wi-Fi are available on the market, but you need to make sure that you set up your home or office for something like this. For a residential area, you would want access points in the form of ethernet connections in as many rooms as possible.
Typically, the cables for these points will terminate into a box somewhere else on the property. In short, you can get by with a non-Wi-Fi router if your devices have easy access to wired connections like ethernet throughout much of the home.
In these cases, there would be little need for a router that has an antenna, especially since you don’t want to extend the Wi-Fi range, and you may wish to have it inactive entirely.
Why Do Some Routers Have No Antennas?
Unless we’re talking about routers that are not meant to be capable of Wi-Fi, just like we mentioned above, most routers for consumers do have antennas.
However, not all antennas are visible on every router. If you see a router that has Wi-Fi capabilities without any antennas, it is only because they are inside the casing.
Any router that grants access to a wireless network needs to be able to extend that coverage and send those signals. It will do all of this through internal antennas.
One of the reasons it is okay to have an antenna on the inside of the router is that the plastic case doesn’t impede it much. Plastic does very little to block the signals antennas use, so there is not much of an issue in putting them inside the case rather than outside.
An external antenna may have slightly better aerial gain than its internal counterpart. Aerial gain is a measurement of the directional control of the signal, the efficiency with which the antenna transmits that signal, and possible signal loss.
Although this measurement might be slightly higher for external antennas, you should notice about the same transmission power and performance between both kinds of antennas. This is particularly true if the makes and models you get are of decent quality and from reputable brands.
Router antennas are central to the devices being able to provide you with a good Wi-Fi network at home. They help the signal get out to your devices, but that signal can still find obstructions to deal with. More than one router antenna could provide a solution to this problem.
You might find some routers with internal ones, and there are others that may not need to use them, but this is only if you have no interest in the traditional wireless home network. Lastly, you may find some extra antennas to be visually appealing on specific routers.