- A modem is a device that connects your home to your internet service provider.
- A router distributes the internet to your computers, smartphones, and other devices you have at home.
- A device called Gateway that combines the functionality of a modem and a router into a single box.
Understanding what is the difference between a modem and a router is a must especially if you’re not tech-savvy and deciding which type of connection you want to be installed in your home or business. Modems and routers are both involved in connecting your computers to the internet. But do you need both?
A quick answer would be: a modem is a device that connects your home to your internet service provider while a router distributes the internet to your computers, smartphones, and other devices you have at home.
Let’s dig in deep into how both of these devices function and see their differences.
What is a Modem?
Modems are responsible for encoding and decoding data so that it can pass between your home network and your Internet Service Provider (ISP). They receive information through phone lines, optical fibre, or coaxial cable in your home and convert it into a digital signal. Security-wise, modems do not screen the data it encodes or decodes, hence it can pass on any potential threat to connected computers.
A modem can work without a router if used on a single personal computer. You may connect the modem directly to your PC using an ethernet port. Usually, your ISP will provide you with a modem when you sign up for a subscription to their services, however, in most cases, it is not for free.
What is a Router?
Routers, on the other hand, are networking devices that forward data packets between computer networks. A router physically connects to the modem using a network cable via the internet or WAN port and then connected, still through a network cable, to the network interface card in whatever wired network devices you have. A wireless router or WiFi can connect using various wireless standards to devices that also support the same standard. Routers also provide extra layers of firewall or security measures to protect your network.
In short, routers create a network and allow multiple devices to connect to the network. Since the router is physically connected to the modem, all devices connected to the router can connect to the internet via the modem. Most homes and offices are wireless-enabled and connect to their own network using the router. However, if you wish to enjoy a faster internet connection, you can connect your consoles, PC’s or TV’s to the router using ethernet ports.
It’s quite evident now how modems and routers differ in functionality, and what roles each play in connecting our devices to the internet.
Oftentimes, these two are bundled together. There is a device called Gateway that combines the functionality of a modem and a router into a single box. Here are the advantages of using Gateway:
Productivity increases when multiple devices can connect to the internet. The router’s primary function is to share the internet connection from the modem to different machines. Since a modem can only connect to one device at a time, you’ll need a router if you want to be able to share your network.
As modems expose your computers to a variety of security threats, routers act as intermediaries between two networks so that the environment is secure to some extent, and so having a router together with your modem is the first step towards securing a network connection. It is not to be used though as a replacement for a firewall or antivirus.
Routers make use of alternative parts for avoiding problems in routing traffic in case one of the external network components fails.
In a Nutshell...
Having a stable wifi connection is more important now than ever, especially at home. The good news is that you don’t need to worry about getting your own modem and router as most ISPs already bundle these if you choose to sign up for their services. But if you’re looking to save money, or you already have your own devices, you can find a broadband plan without a modem or router.