Modem Vs. Router: What’s The Difference?

modem vs router

Is it a modem, or is it a router? What’s the box you have for the home connection that connects you to the internet? Usually, you have both the router and the modem or a gateway to connect to the internet. Likewise, let’s look at the answer to the modem vs. router dilemma.

It would help if you understood how your home Wi-Fi works, and the first place to begin is to understand the hardware or understand the modem vs. router difference. A modem connects you to a Wide Area Network (WAN) or the internet. Meanwhile, a router connects your devices to a local area network (LAN) or Wi-Fi network, and it lets your devices communicate with each other wirelessly.

It’s a device used to access a Wide Area Network and convert analog signals.It’s a device used to redistribute data from the internet to multiple devices.
It can only be connected to one device.Can connect to multiple devices.
Required in coaxial or telephone line connections.Required in coaxial, telephone line, and fiber connections.

Why do modems and routers matter?

how a modem and router work
Image: Netgear

A modem encodes and decodes data in real-time between analog and digital formats. The term “modem” is short for the “modulator-demodulator” network device. However, modern connections are much simpler and do not require conversion. As a result, newer high-speed devices do not convert analog signals to digital.

The router is a device that transmits data from the internet to multiple devices in your home. The data is transferred from the router to devices using radio waves, ranging from 2.4GHz, 5GHz, to 6GHz. A modem is your gateway to the internet that only connects to one device, while a router is a central hub for your devices.

Discussing the modem vs. router dilemma, other devices can perform the functions of both. These integrated devices are commonly used by Internet Service Providers that lease an internet connection. Moreover, these devices, such as ADSL routers, might include a VoIP ability if you have an internet and phone package.

Further, the world is quickly drifting away from traditional coaxial or telephone line cable connections. It’s an era of fiber optics, and significant parts of the world have access to fiber internet connections. The fiber connection has no use for a modem and instead uses different technology. Hence, if you have a fiber connection, the box you see at your home is a router, and there’s no modem vs. router confusion.

If you like this simple explainer, check out our Short Bytes section. We take complex tech topics and break them into short, easy-to-understand articles.

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