Modem VS Router: Which One Do You Need?

Do you need a modem or a router for your new NBN internet plan? Here's a quick guide.

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In order to enjoy the internet, you should at least have a basic knowledge of how it works and what devices are required to help you stay connected. In this quick guide, we've elaborated on the difference between a router and a modem so you can enjoy your home WiFi at its full capacity. But first, let's take a look at the most popular home Wifi plans from our database.


Belong broadband provider logo
Broadband Only
Unlimited
48 Mbps Typical Evening Speed
Month to month
$70/Month
Min total cost $70
View breakdown
Harbour ISP broadband provider logo
Broadband Only
85 GB
24 Mbps Typical Evening Speed
Month to month
$40/Month
10 GB On-Peak / 75 GB Off-Peak
Min total cost $40
View breakdown
Tangerine Telecom broadband provider logo
Broadband Only
Unlimited
25 Mbps Typical Evening Speed
Month to month
$44.90/Month
$44.90 for first 6 months, then $59.90 ongoing
Min total cost $44.90
View breakdown
Exetel broadband provider logo
Broadband Only
Unlimited
12 Mbps Typical Evening Speed
Month to month
$49.95/Month
for the first 6 months then $59.95/mth ongoing
Min total cost $49.95
View breakdown
Exetel broadband provider logo
Broadband Only
Unlimited
25 Mbps Typical Evening Speed
Month to month
$49.95/Month
for the first 6 months then $59.95/mth ongoing
Min total cost $49.95
View breakdown
Superloop broadband provider logo
Broadband Only
Unlimited
22 Mbps Typical Evening Speed
Month to month
$49.95/Month
per month for 6 months, then $59.95 ongoing
Min total cost $49.95
View breakdown
TPG broadband provider logo
Broadband + Home Phone
100 GB
12 Mbps Typical Evening Speed
Month to month
$49.99/Month
50 GB On-Peak / 50 GB Off-Peak
Min total cost $159.94
View breakdown
Harbour ISP broadband provider logo
Broadband Only
160 GB
24 Mbps Typical Evening Speed
Month to month
$50/Month
45 GB On-Peak / 115 GB Off-Peak
Min total cost $50
View breakdown
Superloop broadband provider logo
Broadband Only
Unlimited
48 Mbps Typical Evening Speed
Month to month
$53.95/Month
per month for 6 months, then $69.95 ongoing
Min total cost $53.95
View breakdown
Tangerine Telecom broadband provider logo
Broadband Only
Unlimited
50 Mbps Typical Evening Speed
Month to month
$54.90/Month
$54.90 for first 6 months, then $69.90 ongoing
Min total cost $54.90
View breakdown
TPG broadband provider logo
Broadband + Home Phone
Unlimited Data
12 Mbps Typical Evening Speed
Month to month
$59.99/Month
Min total cost $169.94
View breakdown

Results explained

Compare Broadband cannot guarantee that all plans or providers shown will be available at your property address. Connection and plan availability will need to be confirmed by the internet service provider. Additional charges may apply for non-standard connections.

The good news is that if you’re on the NBN already, your internet service provider will hook you up with one device that combines the power of a modem and a router. But if you do have an old modem or router from your previous connection, and you’re looking to upgrade, then learning the difference between the two will come in handy for you.

Modem vs Router: What’s the Difference?

If you are looking for the best home Wifi plans, you will need to understand the basics of how a modem and router work.

A modem is a box that connects the home or office network to the broader internet. Meanwhile, a router is a box or device that allows all wired and wireless devices to connect to the Internet simultaneously. Interestingly, through a router, wired and non-wired devices connected to the router can communicate with each other without using the Internet as their platform.

For most households subscribed to a retail internet service provider, your ISP will provide you with an NBN connection box or device that is both a modem and a router. But in some cases, you might need the two.

Some modems do not have router functions, and some routers do not have modem functions. However, for a simple home internet setup, you need both the function of the router and the modem to connect all your devices to your internet at home.


What is a Modem?

The modem is responsible for modulating and demodulating electrical signals that travel through the coaxial cables, phone lines and other types of wires. It features two ports - one that connects your home to the outside world or your internet service provider and the other that is used to connect to a computer or a router. 

Modems can either be external or internal. External modems tend to be larger and are connected to the computer using a cable. Meanwhile, internal modems are smaller in size and are often found in laptops.

Although some ISPs provide a separate router and a separate modem, there is most likely an additional fee involved in such cases. Therefore, a modem is considered a privilege for most household subscribers.

 

What is a Router?

A router is a device that routes data between the devices in your home, connected to the Internet. The router creates a connection between devices as well as your device to the wider internet. Thus, it can be collectively referred to as your home network. For a scenario where the modem is different from the router, the router is connected to the modem that is commonly labelled as Wide Area Network or WAN.

There are two types of routers available for your home: stand-alone WiFi Routers and WiFi Mesh Networking Kit.

  • Stand-alone WiFi Routers:  These are the most common types of routers that you can find in the market today. They come with multiple Ethernet ports as well as a WAN port to connect to the modem. 

    Stand-alone WiFi Routers are ideal for small spaces with a couple of dozen devices connected to the Internet. However, for bigger homes with more gadgets to be considered, a Wi-Fi repeater for your router may help. 

  • WiFi Mesh Networking Kit:  These routers are designed for larger homes with a lot of devices that need to be constantly connected to the Internet. They create a mesh network in your home, which means that there is more than one router in your home working together to extend the WiFi signal. 

A good thing about this type of router is that you can add more units to the mesh network, depending on the size of your home.

A WiFi mesh networking kit would better cover bigger areas with plenty of rooms and more devices connected to the Internet. This ensures that practically every area in your home offers accessibility to the Internet.

 

Do I Still Need a Modem with the NBN?

It depends on whether or not your NBN hardware already has one. For example, if you have an FTTB or FTTN NBN connection, you'll need a modem router. And for other connection types, such as FTTP, FTTC, Satellite NBN, and fixed wireless, you will only require a router.

Your retail service provider will give you more information on whether or not you need a modem when you sign up for an NBN plan. But if you are unsure, it is always best to ask your ISP directly.

 

Different NBN Modem and Router Needs

FTTP modem vs router

An NBN utility box located outside the home connects to an NBN modem inside the house via a Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) connection. To share the internet connection throughout your home, this NBN modem must be linked to a suitable router.

FTTN modem vs router

FTTN, or Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN), connects to the telephone wall socket for internet but, unlike FTTC, it utilizes a VDSL2-compatible modem router to both sends and receives data as well as distribute the internet throughout the home.

FTTB modem vs router

To have internet access in your home, you'll need a VDSL2-compatible modem router.  FTTB, or Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB), is a type of NBN connection that delivers fibre optics directly to the basement or utility room of an apartment block or office building. From there, it uses existing copper wiring to connect to individual apartments or offices.

HFC modem vs router

The NBN connects to the Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) through an NBN utility box on the outside of your property, which then connects to an NBN modem using a coaxial wall outlet. To share internet access in your house, you'll need to connect this NBN modem to a compatible router.

Fixed Wireless and Sky Muster modem vs router

Fixed Wireless and Sky Muster technologies are utilized to deliver regional and rural NBN connections, with both requiring an NBN modem connected to a compatible router for in-home internet access.

 

Is a Modem or a Router the Best Option for Your Home?

On the surface level, a router may be the best option available for your home internet subscription. However, for bigger homes with higher internet use demands, a separate modem would be beneficial. Moreover, without a modem, your home will not be able to connect.

ISP providers often provide modem and router combo devices to their clients. Take advantage of these since it is the ideal setup for home internet connections and the more affordable type.

If a separate modem and router are required or essential to enjoy internet service efficiently in your home, talk to your ISP providers about possible savings you can get by binding your modem use to your monthly services. 

Do your research too. Some ISPs require monthly fees for the use of modem devices on top of your routers at home. It all applies to knowing what your service provider offers and which one of these would be the most efficient and ideal for your budget.

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