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Modem vs router: your guide

Modem vs Router

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

Although the words are often used interchangeably, routers and modems are actually very different devices. Read on for a beginner’s guide to the modem vs router situation.

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

A modem is a networking device that connects your address 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. We’ll explain…

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What is a modem?

You can think of your modem like a translator. There are two stages of the data flow into your house, each “speaking” a different language – the modem is the translator that speaks both and translates between them.

The first stage of the data flow is the analog signal (the first language) that comes from your ISP (internet service provider, for example, Swoop), while the second stage is the digital signal that links the modem to the router (and on to the individual devices at your property). 

When you hit send on an email, the router speaks digital to the modem, which translates it into analog to send that request to your ISP. When the analog signal comes back with the data to send your message, the modem will translate again, turning it into a digital signal that your router will understand.

What is a router?

Routers connect the internet to all the devices at your property – including computers, phones, televisions, Alexas and more. Think of it as directing traffic (the internet) around your home to get it to your devices.

Your devices also “speak” to the router, which passes the message on to the modem to be translated and sent to your ISP. 

Routers give each device its own IP (internet protocol) address, so it knows where to send the data when it comes back. Without a router, you could only connect a single device to the internet at a time, which would be inconvenient, to say the least.

What about modem routers?

Some devices can do it all and function as both a modem and a router.  These modem routers are usually used in premises that use fibre to the node (FTTN) or fibre to the building (FTTB) technology. 

With FTTN and FTTB technology, a utility box outside your home or building connects to a centralised neighbourhood node via copper wiring. The utility box also connects to a VDSL2-compatible modem-router inside your home, which both receives the internet and shares it with your devices. 

If you have fibre to the premises (FTTP) or live rurally and rely on wireless technology, you’ll need both a modem and a compatible router.

Wi-Fi extenders

The final piece in your modem vs router puzzle is Wi-Fi extenders. These are useful if you live in a large house and want your internet to cover every part of it. As the name suggests, Wi-Fi extenders expand the coverage that your router can offer – giving you access in every corner of your house.

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Modem vs router – questions answered?

Now that you understand how your modem and router work, pair them with one of our fast, reliable and locally managed home nbn® plans.

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