Modem vs Router: What’s the Difference For My Home Internet Access?

Family sitting on lounge using internet devices

A modem and router are two essential bits of home technology that help you connect with your broadband service and provide internet access. While signing up to an internet service provider gives you access to the internet, without a modem and router you won’t actually be able to connect your home and your devices, and you’ll be stuck paying for an internet service you can’t use.

If your internet works fine at home, and we’re not talking about mobile data, then somewhere in your house you will have a modem and a router, or both combined into one unit. But what exactly do they do, and what’s the difference between them?

The modem

The modem is the first port of call for your home internet access. It plugs into an electrical output in the wall to power the device, and also into the cable output of your home which is that funny little metal cylinder that sticks out of the wall, with a small hole in the middle and screw threads around the outside. The cable output will usually be close to the ground in living room areas of your home.

What the modem does is connect to the internet - allowing you to connect devices directly to it via an ethernet cable and access the internet. This involves having your device directly connected to a modem via a cable, which isn’t all that convenient for all our internet-enabled devices. This is where our router comes in.

The router

Getting a modem is the first part of the battle: we’ve got access to the internet now, but we can only connect via an ethernet cable.

A router connects to our modem via that ethernet cable we mentioned earlier, and turns that signal wireless. This allows us to connect our devices to the internet connection wirelessly by way of the router, which itself connects via the ethernet cable to the internet that our modem connects to via our two wall plugs. It sounds like a lot of steps when we put it like that, but the easiest way to think of it is: the modem brings the internet into our house, the router brings the internet wirelessly to our devices.

A modem/router combination in one device

As often happens with technology, we’re seeing a lot of new devices released that house both the modem and router components in one unit. This simplifies the job of setting up two separate devices by allowing us to only have one device.

You’ll likely have the option of adding a modem/router to your broadband plan when signing up, so just make sure you’re getting either both units, or a unit that does the job of both. If you’re planning on purchasing your own to save on a fee, make sure you’ve got both bases covered.

If you’re searching for a home broadband plan or simply trying to save on your current service, let us help you find some of the best deals available with our handy broadband comparison tool.