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Modem vs Router

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Modem vs Router – Understanding the Key Differences

Modems and routers play a key role in providing internet to your property. While we often use these terms interchangeably, there are several key differences that separate the two devices.

A modem acts as a gateway between your internet service provider and your home network. The data created on your home network is then translated to the internet. A router connects the devices in your home – like your smartphone, TV, and computer – to the internet through your modem. They both work in conjunction with one another to provide either a wired (ethernet) or wireless connection (WiFi) for your household.

There is also a modem router combo unit, which many internet service providers offer with their plans. A modem router is exactly what its name suggests – a single unit that combines the features of both a modem and router to deliver a wired or wireless internet connection.

Securing a new modem or router can be one of the best decisions you can make, especially if you spend a lot of time online. With how much we ask of our internet connection, upgrading to a new unit can benefit outside of just a faster internet speed.

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What Is The Difference Between a Router And A Modem?

A wireless router and modem are both technologies that are commonly used to get online. However, there are some major differences between these two products.

Modem

A modem is one of the essential components of getting you connected to the internet. It physically connects your devices to the internet through a separate wireless router. In the past, a modem was necessary to connect one device to the internet via an ethernet cable. Now, newer technologies have combined the functionalities of a modem and a router in one device – otherwise known as a “modem router”.

Wireless Router

A wireless router attaches to your modem to create a wireless network or WiFi. A router is responsible for distributing your internet connection to different devices like your smartphone, video game console, smart TV, and other devices.

Modem Router

In some cases, you may have one hardware device instead of two separate boxes. Typically branded as a modem router, this device can double as a modem and a router. Many telcos will offer modem routers with their broadband plans like Telstra’s Smart Modem – an NBN modem that offers enhanced WiFi technology and extended coverage in one box.

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What Should I Look For When Buying a Wireless Router?

Purchasing a new router can be extremely confusing. With all of the technical jargon and obscure language surrounding routers, not to mention the various different models, the shopping process can be difficult. We’ve listed some of the most important components of a router that you need to know so you can make an informed decision.

Internet Speed

Your internet speed is determined by the speed of your current internet plan as well as the speed supported by your modem. For instance, most standard 802.11ac wireless routers will be able to support NBN 50 and NBN 100 plans but may have trouble delivering high-speed NBN plans like NBN 1000. It’s important to establish what type of internet speed you need and whether your router will be capable of handling said speeds.

Wired Connections

Although WiFi is the norm for most households, you’ll also want to consider wired connections like ethernet, which offers a faster and more stable internet connection. Devices that use more bandwidth, like smart TVs, desktop computers, and game consoles, may need to be connected via an ethernet cable if you live in a house with dead spots or have a multi-story house where the WiFi signal drops after a certain distance from the router.

Coverage

Wireless routers have a limited WiFi range. Once it reaches a certain distance or is obstructed by something, your internet connection can become unstable, and you’ll notice more latency issues. Consider how big your house is and whether you have dead spots in your house. If this is the case, you may want to opt for a mesh router instead, which uses multiple routers placed around your home to keep a strong WiFi signal.

Price

Standard 802.11ac wireless routers typically cost less than AU$100 for a basic dual-band model. If you’re looking for something that offers more coverage and faster speeds, you can look into a WiFi 6 router, which has become the standard for wireless routers. These can range anywhere from AU$100 and up.

What Should I Look For When Buying a Modem?

Most internet service providers will offer modems with their broadband plans. If you’re considering purchasing one of your own, there are several factors to consider before making your decision.

Price

Modems typically range in price anywhere from $50 to $200 and up. While it’s easy to just pick and choose the most expensive router, you’ll want to consider a modem that fits your budget and can optimise your internet connection for the best speed. Telcos will also bundle modems into their internet plans, so if convenience is something you’re after, getting a modem from your provider can get the job done.

Internet Speed

A new modem can increase the reliability of your WiFi, or the speed of the network connection inside your home. If you suffer from frequent drop-outs or an unstable network connection, a new modem could be the solution for you. It’s worth noting that if you have slow internet speeds, a new modem will probably not speed up your internet connection.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Can Affect My WiFi Speed and Strength?

    There are four factors that can affect the overall speed and strength of your wireless network:

    • Router and modem type

    • Internet speed

    • Proximity to the modem and router

    • The number of users on the network at the same time

    Your wireless router and modem need to have the specifications to support your network speed – otherwise, you’re not taking full advantage of your plan. Why pay the full amount for your internet plan if you’re not using the maximum speeds your plan can provide?

    The proximity and range of your modem and router to the device you are connecting to can affect the speed and strength of your home network. This can also be affected by objects that can cause interference, like microwaves, cordless phones, or even walled partitions of your home. For the best coverage, try placing your router in the middle of your room. If you’re having issues with your connection, you can also purchase a WiFi range extender, WiFi booster, or USB WiFi adapter, which can help strengthen your WiFi network signal.

  • How Do I Shop For the Best Modem or Router?

    With so many different models and brands available, it’s important to find a modem or router that offers support for the speeds your network offers. Modems and routers are designed to handle different speed capabilities. If you choose the wrong model, you run the risk of bottlenecking your internet, which can lead to slower speeds and a less stable connection.

    For example, let’s say you signed up for an Ultrafast NBN plan (1000Mbps). You’ll need a modem and router that are capable of handling these speeds. If the model you’re purchasing can only handle speeds up to 400Mbps, you’re not taking full advantage of your Ultrafast plan.

    Another important thing to keep note of is whether your preferred ISP will let you bring your own modem. If they don’t, you’ll either have to rely on your ISP’s modem or switch to a provider that allows you to use your own modem.

  • Should I Get a Modem From My Internet Provider?

    Getting a modem from your internet provider comes with the convenience of not having to go out and purchase one yourself. You can also get one for free* when you sign up for an eligible NBN plan, like the WiFi Gen 2 modem from Optus. This type of modem offers Optus 4G backup, the latest WiFi 6 technology, and fast speeds – and it comes bundled with an eligible Optus plan.

    Telcos also offer different internet equipment, like a mesh gateway modem/router, which can offer greater WiFi coverage. Users struggling with WiFi dead spots in their homes can pair their router with different points to increase their WiFi range. Aussie Broadband currently offers its NG20MESH gateway modem/router, which can be added to an eligible NBN plan.

    It’s important to note that going with a premium brand like Optus, Telstra, or TPG can offer more benefits than a smaller provider. If customer service is something you value, premium telcos can offer different support options from real live agents. On top of this, their catalogue of plans is extremely competitive when compared to the rest of the market and can come with unique add-ons like 4G backup or entertainment add-ons.

    *customers must sign up for an eligible NBN plan. If you leave your contract early, you may need to pay a fee. See your provider for details.

  • Can a Modem Transmit a Wireless Signal Without a Wireless Router?

    Unless you have a modem router, the only way your modem can transmit a WiFi signal to the devices in your home is by connecting a separate modem and wireless router to the internet network.

  • What is a WiFi Extender?

    A WiFi extender, also known as a WiFi booster or WiFi repeater, amplifies the WiFi signal emitted from your wireless router and acts as a bridge to improve your coverage area. It works by rebroadcasting the signal on a different channel than the one that your router is using.

    WiFi extenders will only extend your WiFi signal at the point where they are placed. This means that if you place an extender at the edge of your WiFi network, you’ll essentially extend that signal strength – which could be one bar. This is why placement is extremely important with extenders.

  • What Are the Best Internet Plans to Get With My New Modem and Router?

    If you believe you’re paying more than you should for internet, it never hurts to compare the market and see if you can get a better deal. You should also consider whether your current internet plan is still meeting your needs. For example, if you have a monthly data limit, you might want to consider an unlimited mobile broadband plan. Or, if your current speed isn’t enough, you may want to switch to a plan that offers a faster maximum download speed.

Disclaimer

This publication reviews Modem and Router that are accurate as of: 23/01/2024

Important Points to note are:

  • The plans displayed have been taken from the retailer’s website. We do not guarantee that this information is correct or that it applies to every household in Australia.

  • The information in this blog cannot substitute for legal advice. No financial decisions should be made based on information from this blog.

  • All dollar figures include GST.

  • Plans from the rate tables have been listed in order of lowest price first. Please check the details of these plans directly with the retailer before making any purchase decisions.

  • Internet Monster displays the best broadband plans from our providers based on technology & price such as ADSL, NBN or Fibre.

  • Internet Monster reserves the right to show plans we have chosen to make available from our ISP partners to our customers. Our ISP’s partners may have other offers available in the market that may be better than what we can offer. We are not stating that these products are 100% available in your area; in some circumstances these technologies or plans may not be available.

  • Advertised data (per billing, and monthly cost as shown in the table may not be the same as the amounts per billing period). Contact the provider for the billing period costs and inclusions.

  • Some plans may apply additional charges where you exceed usage limits. Check the product provider’s plan information.

  • Proof of identity may be required

  • Some providers may cap the provision of unlimited data at maximum speed. Once this cap is reached the provider will then revert you to a slower speed. See the provider’s website for more details.

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