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I've heard of network extenders where the unit has one radio - and the device shares time for its single radio between being associated to the main Wi-Fi router / access point and handling the Wi-Fi signal for the extended range. AFAIK, these tend to slow down the network for clients in the extended range because the single radio's airtime is split between the main network and the extended network.

I've also heard of the same thing done with access points with two radios - one on the 2.4 GHz, and one on the 5 GHz spectrum. All the access points are part of an extended service set (ESS) - they have the same SSID, and they are all connected to each other with the backhaul network on the 5 GHz band. I think that clients can only associate with an access point on the 2.4 GHz band because the 5 GHz is used by the backhaul.

Knowing these options, does anyone know how exactly does Google Wi-Fi work? Does it use the single radio or the dual radio design above?

In the Google Wi-Fi setup, you have a main device where you plug in power and also the cable to your modem, but all the secondary devices only require a power plug. The only thing is that on Google Wi-Fi, clients can associate on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.

How does Google Wi-Fi communicate between the different "hockey puck" devices on its backhaul? I've tried Googling this info, but no luck.

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Looking at the Google WiFi router it supports AC1200 standards. There is a mix of different technologies, each using the bands and frequency (channels) differently. The MIMO standard provides faster speed over the 2 different bands:

"Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) is a wireless technology that uses multiple transmitters and receivers to transfer more data at the same time. All wireless products with 802.11n support MIMO. The technology helps allow 802.11n to reach higher speeds than products without 802.11n."

However the AC XYZ standard, where the XYZ refers to the maximum theoretical speed. You have something similar is referring to number of bands:

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In terms of the additional pucks, they act as Wifi extenders.

"All WiFi repeaters have some speed loss, but some are much worse than others. WiFi repeaters work by receiving wireless signal and rebroadcasting it, but single band repeaters have to receive, then retransmit each packet of data using the same radio on the same channel. This can cost single band repeaters 50% of their bandwidth.

Dual band repeaters get around this by connecting to the router on one band and outputting a WiFi signal on the other. The Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Dual Band WiFi extender uses FastLane technology to improve performance using both WiFi bands. A fast processor also really helps (the Nighthawk has a Dual core 1GHz processor) by enabling maximum WiFi throughput.

One final feature that helps reduce speed loss is dual radios. If the device has dual radios, it can speak to the main router on lower channels, and then rebroadcast on higher channels. The Hawking Dual Radio Smart Repeater (HW2R1) uses two Wi-Fi radios. One Wi-Fi radio receives the signal and the other radio rebroadcasts the boosted signal. This clever design allows the boosted signal to utilize a different WiFi channel, which greatly increases performance compared to single radio repeaters. The Smart Repeater Pro also has a very powerful high gain antenna that can pick up even very weak WiFi signals, and it rebroadcasts that signal on two powerful 3dBi omni-directional antennas."

So based on the Google spec, they have at least the Dual radios but if you are concern, I would go with a router and extender that is at least AC3900 or higher

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    At first you say the OP is confused about 2.4 vs 5, but later on you yourself start talking about dual-radio repeaters, which would be the exact same thing OP mentioned... Doesn't that sound confused as well? (Yes there are repeaters which use 5 GHz uplink but provide a 2.4 GHz signal themselves.) – user1686 Nov 2 '17 at 21:53
  • You are right, I was distracted when writing the answer, I made edits to correct – TomEus Nov 2 '17 at 22:09
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    So if Google Wi-Fi creates a Wi-Fi network on both the 2.4 and 5 GHz concurrently, each Google Wi-Fi device should have two radios on the 2.4 GHz band and also two radios on the 5 GHz band? – slantalpha Nov 3 '17 at 2:56
  • No, not sure why you think that - you would only have 1 radio but use multiple channels. What are you trying to accomplish? – TomEus Nov 3 '17 at 3:19
  • -1, this is not an answer. The OP already knows that range extenders can either use the same radio to talk to the upstream AP and talk to clients or the extender can use 2 radios. He's asking which implementation is used by Google WiFi. – Navin Jan 10 '19 at 22:56

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