What is a Cable Modem & How Does It Work?

Learn > Cable Modem & Routers > What is a Cable Modem & How Does It Work?

If you are setting up Internet access or Wi-Fi in your home for the first time or updating your current Internet set up, there are devices that you need to know about. One of those devices is a modem. Probably, you are familiar with the router, but this page is about the modem. Specifically, a cable modem. Here is a quick guide on what you should know:

How Cable Modems Work

A modem is a hardware device that connects your computer to your Internet service provider (ISP). A cable modem does the same thing using a coax cable to communicate with your ISP and connect to the Internet. Essentially how it works is a cable modem acts as a digital translator. It receives data from your ISP and translates it into something your router can understand. Your router then distributes the signal to your devices.


Types of Modems

There are a few different types of modems. There are cable modems, digital subscriber line (DSL) modems, and dial-up modems. 

  • A cable modem delivers high-speed Internet to your devices by using coaxial cables that connect to the back of the modem and the bolt-like outlet in your wall or on your cable box. 
  • DSL and dial-up modems use a cable that connects to your phone line. Unlike dial-up modems, DSL allows you to use your landline telephone while connected to the Internet.
  • You do not need a modem for fiber-optic technology Internet service.

Also, consider different branded modems. This is something to note because different brands can have specific features that you are looking for versus others that don’t.


The Difference Between Modems & Routers

Modems and routers are both small boxes that your use in your home Wi-Fi network setup. The difference between a cable modem and router is that the modem directly communicates with the ISP and the router distributes distribute across your local network via wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection. 

A modem (cable modem) can also be paired with a router to bring wireless Internet into your home. They can be separate or combined into one device. These modem/router combo devices are often referred to as gateways or wireless gateways. The combination offers convenience, but if you want more customization freedom, choose separate modem and router devices. 


Choosing the Right Cable Modem for You

Choosing the right modem comes down to preference. Getting a cable modem offers reliable, high-speed Internet in your home and also allows you to configure the device to your preferred settings. And buying a cable modem has more pros than renting one does. 

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