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Roku is testing its own Wi-Fi extender to improve streaming reliability

Roku is testing its own Wi-Fi extender to improve streaming reliability

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Roku is making a Wi-Fi extender called the Roku Relay, which is meant to improve wireless connections inside a home and improve reliability while streaming. The device, which has not yet been announced, is currently in testing with users outside the company, a person familiar with the tests tells The Verge.

The Relay is a small white gadget that plugs into a power outlet and rests alongside the wall. Instructions show that it’s meant to be used with Roku devices to improve their Wi-Fi connection; it isn’t stated whether other devices can be connected to it, too. The product is seemingly being marketed as an extension of Roku players, with the manual directing people to install the Relay halfway between their router and TV.

Roku has just started expanding its hardware beyond streaming devices

A product launch doesn’t appear to be imminent. Though the hardware is ready for testing, it’s yet to pass through the Federal Communications Commission’s clearance process, which it’ll have to in order to make it to market. Bloomberg, which first reported the device’s existence, said that Roku remains undecided on whether the product will even go on sale. A Roku spokesperson said the company doesn’t “comment on rumors or speculation.”

Roku has only recently started to expand beyond its core offering of streaming media players. Last year, the company launched a pair of wireless speakers designed to be used with Roku TVs. That’s it for now, though. The Relay would be Roku’s second device beyond streaming sticks, boxes, and TVs (which the company doesn’t make itself).

Despite being best known for its streaming devices, hardware sales only represented around one-tenth of Roku’s profits last year. For the most part, Roku’s income comes from ads, subscriptions, sales, and other services that happen on its devices after they’ve been purchased. Last year, Roku CEO Anthony Wood told The Verge that those services are what support the overall business. “That’s not paid for by the hardware. That’s paid for by our ad and content business,” he said.

Like the wireless speakers, the Relay would give Roku another piece of hardware to sell to existing customers, helping to expand its hardware business. One analyst firm projects Wi-Fi extenders to become a $2 billion market by 2023, and they’re already becoming increasingly popular through mesh Wi-Fi systems. While those systems would render something like the Relay unnecessary, they aren’t yet present in most people’s homes. As a turnkey solution for patchy internet, the Relay could be an easy sell to customers who already trust their Roku.