What is the Difference Between a Modem and Router

Looking to get connected and install your broadband? Before you get started, let’s take the time to learn a bit more about the gadgets that make it work. We’ve broken down the basics, looking at the two main bits of kit you’ll need: router and modem. Below we explain what they are, the difference between the two and why you need them.


What is a modem?

If you have an internet connection, you will most definitely have a modem in your house. The purpose of a modem is to convert the signals from your internet service provider into signals that your devices can understand. Modems can either be external, (e.g., outside of a computer, connected via USB) or internal and connected to your computer’s motherboard

There are three main types of modems for modern internet connections:

  • DSL/ADSL modem: This type of modem connects to your service provider via your existing telephone line, splitting the signal on a separate digital subscriber line.
  • Cable modem: Translates the signal from your internet service provider through something called a coax cable – rather than through a phoneline, supplying you with broadband only.
  • Fibre modem: Most commonly used for full fibre connections, your modem connects to your internet service provider through a fibre optic cable, delivering your signal through beams of light which are much faster and more reliable than cables and copper phone wires.

Getting confused, check out our list of Internet terms.

Why do you need a modem?

Modems are critical for you to access to the internet. They turn the signal from your ISP into something your devices can understand. Then you can either connect via ethernet cable directly from your modem, or the signals can be shared through a router to connect wirelessly.

The physical ethernet connection between your device and modem means your connection is much more stable, so it’s great for online games or streaming high-definition film. However, you’re really restricted with what you can do due when you’re all tied up to that cable – and you can only connect the number of devices there are ethernet ports for! That’s why most of us today use a router alongside our modem.


What is a router?

The purpose of a router is to turn the connection from your modem into a wireless connection. This enables your wireless device, whether it be mobile phone, tablet or laptop, to connect to the internet.


Why do you need a router?

Want to access the internet simultaneously on multiple devices? A router allows a single internet connection to be shared to multiple devices. That means multiple people in your home can do everything from online gaming, streaming the latest series or simply checking their social media from wherever they are in your home.


What is the difference between a modem and router? 

The difference between modem and router is that the modem connects your home to your internet, while a router allows your devices to connect. The modem decodes the signal from an ISP so that it can be used to connect to the internet. You can connect directly from the modem but it has limitations. A router removes those limitations, allowing multiple devices at the same time through an established local network.


How fast of a connection can a modem provide?

Most modems only have one LAN ethernet port, therefore only one computer can connect at a time. The speeds depend entirely on your internet service package. So, if you have a package with an average speed of 150 Mbps, you can expect it to perform around that speed on average. Connecting through your ethernet cable will generally make your internet


Advantages and disadvantages of modems and routers

You can use a router or a modem to connect to the internet – although most homes do have both. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using each:


Advantages of Modems Disadvantages of Modems
Availability: Modems are very easy to acquire off the market and will likely be provided by your internet service provider. Malware attacks: Connecting a modem can make your computer prone to dangers such as hackers and malware.
Stronger connection: As you’re connected to the internet via a physical cable, your connection is often faster and more reliable. Lack of mobility: If you only have a modem, you can only connect via ethernet which means you’re limited by cables and the availability of ethernet ports.


Advantages of a Router Disadvantages of a Router
Use across multiple devices: A router means you aren’t limited with the number of devices you connect. Fluctuating speed: Internet through your wireless router will fluctuate a lot more than through an ethernet cable
Security: Routers act as the middleman and add an extra level of security to the device and modem connection. Reliability: Wireless connections are naturally more unstable than wired ones and you may even have black spots in your home where connection isn’t possible.


What is a combination modem and router?

If you don’t want the hassle of having separate hardware of a modem and router, then there is the option to get a combination modem router – also known as a gateway. Most ISPs these days provide them as standard – allowing you to translate your signal and connect wirelessly from one box.

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FAQs: What is the Difference Between a Modem and Router

The chances are, if you’ve signed up with an ISP, they’ll provide a modem, router or gateway as part of your contract. However, you may need to pay extra and will always need to return the equipment when your contract ends. It is possible to own your own modem or router and your provider is not allowed to charge you for doing so.
No – a modem connects your home to the internet, but you’ll need a router to connect devices to Wi-Fi.
Yes, it can be cheaper, in the long run, to buy your own router and modem instead of renting them from your internet service provider. However, ensure the devices are compatible with your ISP’s network and choose a reliable brand to ensure a high-quality product.
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