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What’s the difference between a modem and a router?

Some people call them thongs, but others say flip-flops; some say that’s capsicum, but others will say pepper, and you say you’re enjoying an iced lolly, but I’ll be calling it an icy-pole. People often have different names for everyday items, but no matter what we call them, we know we’re talking about the same things. Like router and modem, right?

Actually, wrong! Although the words are often used interchangeably, routers and modems are actually very different devices. And in case you ever find yourself in a conversation with a geek, or simply want to better understand the equipment you use, here’s a little explainer.

A modem is a networking device that connects you to the internet.

A router is the networking device that takes that internet and shares it among the devices in your home.

You need both–and that can mean you need either a modem and a router, or a combined modem-router.

This is how it works:

FTTP: If you have fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), a utility box outside your house connects to a modem inside the home. This modem needs to be connected to a compatible router to use the internet on your devices.

FTTN: Fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) also connects to a utility box, but unlike FTTC, it uses a specific VDSL2-compatible modem-router, which both receives the internet and shares it with your devices.

FTTB: It’s the same deal with fibre-to-the-building. You need a VDSL2-compatible modem- router to bring the internet to your home, and use it on your devices.

A quick note about regional and rural NBN connections: if you’re in the country, your internet connection probably relies on wireless technology, and you’ll need a modem that connects to a compatible router.

Now, we don’t want to boggle your mind with technology, but while we’re explaining modems and routers, we should probably say something about Wi-Fi extenders.

Wi-fi extenders are used by people who live in large houses and want their internet to cover every part of it. As the name suggests, wi-fi extenders expand your existing coverage. Now that’s all clear, go put on your thongs and eat an icy pole.

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