A modem is a box that allows your home or commercial network to connect to the internet. On the other hand, a router is a device that allows all of your wired and wireless devices to connect to the internet at the same time and allows them to “talk” to each other without the use of the internet. For the most part, your internet service provider (aka: ISP) will give you one device that serves the purpose of both a router and a modem. However, though the two technologies can technically be housed in the same device, they serve different purposes. Furthermore, all modems include routers but not all routers have a modem. A network needs both, whether they are integrated into one device or not, in order to provide internet connection to all the devices in your network.

Router and a Modem

Experts recommend including a separate modem and router in your network, if possible. Modem technology tends to change more slowly than routers. A single network can sometimes use a modem for years or until it breaks. On the other hand, you might need to replace a router in your network for a variety of different reasons. You might want better coverage after adding more devices to your network and your current router is not fit to withstand the increase in traffic. Perhaps you want to get a new router because you want to take advantage of the latest advancement and upgrades in Wi-Fi tech. If you choose to buy your own networking equipment when upgrading, this can sometimes save you money on your monthly Internet bill. If you own your own modem and router rather than the ones your ISP provides, it can save you money in the long run. However, this is usually true only if your network runs on cable internet, not DSL or fiber, and the situation is more complicated if you get phone service from your ISP as well.


What is a Router?

A router’s primary objective is to “route” incoming and outgoing data between devices in your network, and between those devices and the outside world. If you have separate modems and routers, the modem will connect to one port on the router—most of the time (but not always) this port is labeled “Wide Area Network,” or “WAN”— then the rest of your devices connect to the other ports, or wirelessly over the Wi-Fi. There are lots of different brands of routers;, two popular ones are Cradlepoint and Antaira.


What is a Modem?

In specific terms, a modem modulates electrical signals that are sent and received through telephone lines, coaxial cables, or whatever type of wiring your particular network uses. In more simplistic terms, a modem translates digital information from your computer or other internet-connected device into analog signals that can be transmitted over wires, and it can transform incoming and outgoing analog signals back into digital data that your connected device can “read” and understand. Modems that are stand-alone have just two ports: one that connects to the internet as a whole, and an Ethernet jack that connects to the devices in your network.