The Difference Between a Modem and a Router

Learn > Cable Modem & Routers > The Difference Between a Modem and a Router

Modem vs router, what’s the difference? Modems and routers are very different and perform specific separate functions.  A modem connects you to the Internet.  A router connects your devices to your home network (also known as a Local Area Network or LAN) or WiFi network and then your devices can wirelessly communicate with each other. A router by itself, does not connect you to the Internet. So, how does a modem and a router work together? We will explain the differences between these two devices in this article.

Modem

A modem is a device that connects your home to your Internet service provider (ISP) and translates the digital signals from your ISP so your computer can understand them.  Most modems have two connection ports:  one that connects you to your ISP and one that connects to your computer/laptop or your router. 

 

There are a few different types of modems: analog modems (dial-up), digital subscriber line (DSL) modems or cable modems.   A cable modem uses a coax cable to ​connect your devices with your Cable Internet service provider (ISP). ​A cable modem connects to the Internet.

 

Typically, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides a modem to their subscribers with a monthly rental fee, and that can come with some added benefits, such as support and troubleshooting.  The option to buy or purchase your own modem can save you from paying monthly rental fees (sometimes up to $168 per year* depending on your current rental fees).  Your modem gives you a reliable, wired Internet connection.  But if you want to connect multiple devices, or you want to use your devices wirelessly (WiFi), then you will need both a modem and a router.

Router

As stated earlier, when you have multiple devices that need to connect to the Internet, or if you want to use those devices wirelessly (over WiFi), you will need a router.  Your router connects those devices to your home network or WiFi network, which then enables your devices to communicate wirelessly and connect to the Internet.

 

Modem & Router Combination

A combination modem router or cable modem router combines the function of both a modem and a router into one piece of hardware (sometimes called a gateway).  This combined unit (modem router or cable modem router)  performs the functions of both a modem and a router to connect you to the Internet ​and distribute that internet connection to your multiple devices.

Modem vs Router Differences At-A-Glance

While these devices do different things, they can physically look similar and act similarly.

Here’s how to tell your modem and router apart:

Modem features:

  • Has fewer Ethernet ports than a router
  • Has a public IP address
  • Use a wide area network (WAN)

 

Router features:

  • Has more Ethernet ports than a modem because its used to connect multiple devices to the Internet
  • Has a private IP address
  • Distribute on a local area network (LAN)
  • Check out our list of Cable Modem Router Must-have features

Why You Want a Modem

A modem is the one piece of equipment that takes the digital Internet signals from your Internet service provider (ISP) and provides you with an Internet connection in your home or office. A modem is fundamental to getting an Internet connection.  From there, these digital signals can then be distributed to a connected router that translates and distributes the Internet signal to multiple connected devices.  Read more about a router below.

Why You Want a Router

A router is a networking device that takes the Internet connection from your modem and sends it to your wireless devices. A router also allows all of these devices to connect at the same time.

There are different types of routers, but the most popular are wired or wireless. Regardless of if your router is hard-wired or wireless, it still needs to physically connect to your modem with a cable. Again, if two separate devices connected via cable isn’t what you want, a modem/router combo might be a better solution for you.

How to Choose Between a Cable Modem & Cable Modem Router

When choosing between a separate modem and router set up, or getting a combination cable modem router unit, it comes down to your preference for your home network setup. A combo cable modem router can serve you well. However, if you want more freedom to adjust things on your home network, like security settings, you might want to have a separate cable modem and router. To have even more freedom, you can purchase your own cable modem, router, or cable modem router instead of renting them for a monthly fee. This can save you money over time, however, renting from your ISP often comes with access to support technicians and troubleshooting as well.  We cover Buying vs Renting a Router in this article.

FAQs

How Do I Choose a Modem and a Router?

Should You Buy or Rent a Cable Modem?

How do I Know if My Router Supports Mesh WiFi?

What’s the Difference Between a Mesh Router and a Regular Router?

Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up Your Cable Modem Router

Troubleshooting Your Modem

Should I Upgrade My Cable Modem When I Upgrade My Internet Plan?

 

Hitron has been designing and manufacturing Cable Modems for Cable Internet Providers for over 30 years. You can purchase Hitron’s CODA Cable Modem on Amazon.  Need more information on cable modems and routers?  Check out our complete guide on cable modems and routers.

Hitron has been designing and manufacturing Cable Modems for Cable Internet Providers for over 30 years. You can purchase Hitron’s CODA Cable Modem on Amazon.  Need more information on cable modems and routers?  Check out our complete guide on cable modems and routers.

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