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Modem vs router: What is the difference?

Mark Bristow avatar
Mark Bristow
- 2 min read
Modem vs router: What is the difference?

A seamless internet connection has never been more important to average Australians, and a key part of this is using the right modem or router. For many of us, the terms 'modem' and 'router' can be confusing: they’re often used interchangeably, but are actually two different devices, and are both essential to your home internet setup. 

If you’re a tech newbie, read on for an easy guide to the differences between a modem and a router.

What is a modem?

A modem is a device that acts as a bridge between your home network and the internet. Your modem functions by converting digital data from your network into analog signals for transmission over telephone or cable lines, and vice versa. 

Here's a quick breakdown:

  • Functionality: Connects to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to bring the internet to your home.
  • Types of modems: DSL, cable, and fibre optic modems, depending on the type of broadband connection you have.
  • Single device connection: Can directly connect to a single device or a router via an Ethernet cable.

What is a router?

A router manages the flow of data within your home network. Using a router allows multiple devices to connect to the internet simultaneously, so you’ll need one to set up a home WiFi network. The main uses of a router are:

  • Network creation: Enables the formation of a home WiFi network, so you can connect multiple devices wirelessly.
  • Security features: Provides essential security measures, like firewalls and encryption.
  • Device communication: Allows interaction between different devices on the same home network.

Modem vs router: Key differences explained

Internet access vs network management

  • Modem: The gateway to the internet.
  • Router: Organises and directs traffic within your home network.

Connectivity and security

  • Modem: Offers basic connection with limited security features.
  • Router: Supports multiple connections and includes advanced security protocols.

Choosing the right equipment

When selecting a modem and router, you’ll need to ensure it’s compatible with your internet provider and the type of broadband connection you have. You’ll also want to check the performance specifications (like support for Wi-Fi 6 or DOCSIS 3.1), and the level of security offered - if you’re unsure, your ISP can let you know what to look for.

FAQs: Addressing common modem and router questions

Modems and routers: Why the difference matters

If you’re looking to set up or upgrade your home internet network, knowing the difference between a modem and router is essential. The more you know, the more you can make informed decisions and find the right devices for your household needs. 

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Product database updated 28 May, 2024

This article was reviewed by CEO Paul Marshall before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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product data updated on

Product data updated on 28 May 2024