What is a Modem?

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To get technical, modem stands for modulator-demodulator. However, everyone calls it a modem.

A modem is a hardware device that you get when you set Internet up in your home. If you rent from an Internet service provider (ISP) they will provide the device for you. Otherwise, you can buy your own. Whichever you do – buy or rent your modem – it is the device that communicates directly with your ISP to provide an Internet connection in your home.


Purpose of a Modem

Modems are wired devices. The way a modem functions is by converting data from your ISP into a format your connected devices understand, therefore creating an Internet connection. Some modems, like cable modems, use specialized wiring call coaxial cable to create the connection. This is the same kind of wiring used to transmit cable TV services as well. Cable modems also support a specific DOCSIS standard which determines the download and upload speeds. Learn more about DOCSIS 3.1 modems.


Using a Modem with a Router

Since modems are only responsible for a wired connection, you need a router to get wireless Internet (WiFi) in your home. These devices are different, but they work together. Whereas a modem communicates directly with your ISP, the router is the middle device. A modem takes the ISP data and converts it into a format your router can understand. The router then converts that data into a digital signal that your wireless devices can understand. This digital signal is also known as a WiFi signal.

There are also combination devices like a cable modem router that is a single device that performs both functions. Which is convenient if you have a smaller space you don’t want to clutter up with separate devices.


Where to Place a Modem

Much like a router, your modem should be visible and centrally located in your home. Don’t place it inside or under any furniture because this can block the vents and cause overheating. The best placement is to position your modem upright and elevated off the ground. Try to avoid stacking it on other equipment to avoid signal interference.


Lifetime of a Modem – When to Upgrade

Modems can last about 2-5 years before they are outdated and need an upgrade. If you purchase your own modem, this is something to pay attention to. Also, if your modem is separate from your router, it’s easier to make the upgrade. If you rent from your ISP, you should always be provided with a modern device.

Some people prefer to keep their cable modem and router separate for easier upgrades, while others enjoy the convenience offered by a cable modem router (gateway). You can learn more about which network set up is right for you by checking out Hitron’s Complete Guide to Cable Modem Routers.

Hitron’s CODA DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem is available on Amazon,  The CODA has DOCSIS 3.1 to deliver the fastest Multi-Gigabit speeds to your connected devices.  Learn more about cable modems or cable modem routers by reading Hitron’s ​Learn Page​.


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