Difference Between Modem and Router

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Difference Between Modem and Router

The main difference between a router and a modem is that the former distributes internet connection to your gadgets while the latter is your link to the internet.

Knowing the difference between a router and a modem before configuring your home network and internet is important.

Apart from facilitating a smooth setup, it helps you troubleshoot arising issues. Read along to understand the difference between modem and router.

Understanding the Modem and what it does

Difference between Modem and Router

Difference between Modem and Router – Understanding the Modem and what it does

A modem is a gadget that obtains an analog signal from your ISP (Internet service provider). It then converts the analog signal into a digital cue that your devices can understand, allowing them to discharge and receive data through the internet.

Your modem acts as a link between the internet and your local network. The term modem is the short form for modulator-demodulator.

In the past, modems helped modulate telephone line signals to facilitate the encoding and transmission of digital data across them and demodulation and decoding at the other end.

Many modern broadband connections such as satellite and cable hardly operate similarly. However, experts adopted the term modem because people were already conversant with the device and linked it to an internet connection. 

A modem connects to the network based on your connection type. It can plug into any form of infrastructure that you have like satellite, telephone, cable, or fiber.

It then offers you a basic Ethernet cord output which you can plug into a single PC or router and receive an internet connection.

A modem communicates with your ISP, and as a result, you will need the right one that works best with the ISP’s infrastructure.

Understanding the Router and What It Does

Understanding the Router and what it does

Understanding the Router and what it does

A router links different networks and transmits network traffic among them. The router comes with one connection to your private local network and one to the internet.

Many routers come with inbuilt switches that allow users to connect different wired gadgets. Some routers have wireless radios enabling users to connect their devices to Wi-Fi.

A router is a link between your local network and the internet connection. It enables you to connect multiple gadgets to the internet from a single physical internet connection.

Again, it allows the devices to communicate through the local network.

The router protects your devices from direct exposure to the internet. Your router monitors every traffic going into each of your devices on the local network.

However, you cannot connect to the internet directly using a router. The router has to be plugged in a gadget that can transfer digital traffic over your internet connection, and this is a modem.

Router vs. Modem

These gadgets execute different tasks, but they have a similar physical appearance. For example:

  • The Ethernet ports on both devices are located at the back
  • They feature indicator lights
  • Transfer information from one source to a different destination

If you are not familiar with routers and modems, you may end up being confused. Here are some features to help you tell the difference.

Router Features

  • It distributes on a LAN (local area network)
  • It comes with a private internet protocol address

Modem Features

  • It comes with fewer Ethernet ports than the router
  • Utilizes a WAN (wide area network)
  • Features a public internet protocol address

To Buy or Rent a Router?

To Buy or Rent a Router?

To Buy or Rent a Router?

Renting a router from your internet service provider could deny you access to additional administrative tools.

Buying a router is usually the best option if you want to customize it to fit your needs.

If you are not conversant with networking or want your internet service provider to take responsibility for performance failures or router errors, renting the device and granting them administrative access could be the best option.

Always read your contract before signing. Remember, some internet service providers could have a limited rental period, include fees that surpass the value, or expect you to pay maintenance fees for the device.

Understand your charges before agreeing to the contract.

Should you Buy a Router or a Modem?

The modem gives you internet access. If you want to have one internet-connected device with an Ethernet port you will not need a router.

However, you will need a router for your streaming services, smartphone, and laptop. Some internet service providers give you one gadget that works as a router and modem.

Here, you will get all wires under one device, which can be convenient if you don’t want to have two plugged and running gadgets.

The drawback of this setup is that you cannot choose your preferred router. Worth mentioning is that the router technology evolves faster than the modem tech.

If your ISP is not keen on upgrading technology, you could be stuck with obsolete router technology.

If you choose a combination unit, ask your internet provider for different options and pick one that best meets your needs.


A modem is designed to modulate and demodulate signals, while a router is a networking gadget that enables users to link multiple networks together for WAN and LAN networks.

A modem links your computer to the internet service provider, allowing you to access the internet. You can access the internet without a modem.

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