Most home internet networks have two boxes that grant access to the internet, yet many people have no idea how they work. While both a modem and router connect your devices to the internet, they have separate functions. Learn about the differences, functions and everything else you need to know about the two types of hardware.

What is a Modem?

A modem connects your home to your internet service provider through a physical connection. Most modems have two ports: one cord connecting to the outside world and one connecting to a router or directly to your device. The modem’s job is to translate the data from your internet service provider into a format that your home network devices can understand.

Common Types of Modem Connections

There are many different types of modem connections, but these are the four most common:

  • Dial-up: This is the oldest type of connection that uses a telephone line to connect to an internet service provider. It has since largely been replaced by broadband connections, but some still use it.
  • DSL: Like dial-up, a Digital Subscriber Line/Loop (DSL) also uses a telephone line connection but at much higher speeds.
  • Cable: The most common type of connection uses a cable TV line to connect to a provider.
  • Fiber: The fastest connection available on the market connects your network through fiber-optic cables.

Advantages of a Modem

Modems are always required for your devices to access the internet, with or without a router. 

  • Local area network (LAN) connection: The modem acts as the “middleman” by bringing the global internet to your router, so the router can then create a local area network (LAN) that allows you to access the internet on your personal devices.
  • Cost depends on speed: Since the cost depends on your internet speed, modems are available to users on various budgets.

What is a Router?

A router connects to your modem and creates a local area network (LAN) that connects to all your household devices, such as computers, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and other smart devices.

Common Types of Routers

Routers come in two main types, wired and wireless, with the latter being the most popular. Some wireless devices can perform the duties of a router and modem, eliminating the need for two separate devices.

Wireless Router

Wireless routers connect to your modem through an ethernet cable. It then translates data from the modem into Wi-Fi signals that broadcast wirelessly to your devices through antennas, eliminating the need for your device to be plugged directly into the router. Mesh Wi-Fi systems use multiple routers as access points to eliminate dead zones or spotty coverage, providing better coverage and more stable connections.

Wired Router

Wired routers also connect to the modem via an ethernet cable. Then, other cables link your devices to the network and allow access to the internet. These are not as easy to set up or as convenient to use as wireless routers, but they provide a more secure connection.

Advantages of a Router

  • Firewall Protection: Routers protect against outside threats such as hacks or cyber-attacks.
  • Network Security: Routers hide the IP addresses of your devices from the public internet to secure your home network.
  • Parental Controls: Ensure a safe online experience for younger users by restricting certain websites or other online activities from your devices via your router.
  • Connect to VPN: A virtual private network (VPN) adds an extra layer of security and privacy to your home network.

Do I Need a Modem and a Router?

Yes, both a modem and router are essential for most home networks. Without a modem, the router could not connect to the internet. Without a router, your devices could not communicate with the internet. Unless you only have one device you want to connect to the internet via an ethernet cable and modem, both devices are required.

Modem and Router Combo

Many manufacturers offer modem and router combination devices to streamline the home networking experience. These devices play both roles of a modem and router to save space, reduce clutter from cords, and are easier to install.

Should I Buy My Own Modem and Router?

Renting or buying your modem and router depends on your needs and budget. Renting directly from your internet service provider saves time and ensures your modem and router are designed for the service you’ve signed up for. Buying your own may save you money, but it requires extensive research and a technical understanding of the product and the installation process.

What Modem and Router Setup is Right for Me?

What configuration is right for you depends on the size of your home, the number of devices on your network and the type of internet service you have. With high-speed fiber internet, a new modem-router combo will be able to handle the speed and bandwidth that comes with it. Still unsure what setup is right for your home? Call us today at 855.524.0932 for personalized help from our internet experts.

Lumos offers a powerful Total Home Wi-Fi mesh network so you can work, play, stream and share from any room, no matter how many devices are connected, all powered by the latest Wi-Fi 6 equipment. Check for Lumos Fiber near you and experience the latest in home internet connectivity.