Difference Between A Modem and Router

There was a time when you’ll have to dial into America Online while the internet is constantly disconnecting. Nowadays, the internet is always effortlessly there when we open our laptops or phones.
A fast, quiet, and reliable network connection is just a subscription payment away. But I believe there are some of you that want to know how networks function, just like I did. So, let’s begin with the comparison between modem and router.

Modem and Router are very necessary and important components to get an internet access in your home. Being informed and understanding the difference between these two can save you a lot of money because instead of spending time and money calling technical support you can actually diagnose a fix some networking problems.

I’ll give you an explanation of each and tell you their functions and also give you an alternative to the standard router if you are thinking about an upgrade to your home network setup.

Routers and modems are two of the most common computer peripherals, yet many people don’t know the function of each one. While the two devices may look similar, they each serve a different purpose. Fortunately, the functions of the two devices are pretty easy to understand.


A modem, short for MOdulator/DEModelator provides access to the world wide web.  Modems in the old days were big and very hard to operate and also unreliable. In the early 1990s when the Internet started getting more popular, modem became add-in cards for desktops and USB adapters for laptops. Cable-based broadband producing speeds faster than 56Kbps seemingly re-introduced the external modem at the beginning of the 2000s century, thus here we are today.

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Right now, Comcast is the largest broadband provider in America with over 25 million broadband subscriptions. They provide a monthly subscription plan for their modem.

A modem includes a physical connector for the coaxial cable installed in your home. That cable typically exits the home through a hole, and is tunneled around and/or underneath the house until it reaches the Cable Distribution Box mounted on your home’s exterior. An additional cable buried underground connects this box to the service provider’s node mounted on a nearby utility pole.

Modulated signals are transferred and modulated at the receivers end. In simple terms, messages/packets are converted in such a way that they can be transferred over the telephone lines and on the receivers end the same signals are converted in a way that the computer understands. The digital signals are converted to analog signals for transmission.  Once the signals are received they are converted back to the digital form.

The lights along the front of Modems are there so you can get a glance at whats going on. One light indicates that the unit is receiving power, one signals that its receiving data from your internet service provider and one shows that the modem is successfully sending data. This is where you start in a troubleshooting scenario: If the send and/or receive lights are blinking, then your internet service provider is likely having issues or something is going on with the connection outside. Another LED is provided indicating that wired devices are accessing the internet.


Imagine traffic policeman standing in between crossroads. The only duty of this policeman is to ensure which lane should move next.
In this above example, the router is the traffic policeman and crossroads are different networks. A router generally has more than one interface therefore usually connected to more than one network, commonly two WANs or LANs or a LAN and its ISP’s networks. A router maintains routing table consists of entries of networks and path that should be followed to reach the network.
Routers typically have a dedicated, color-coded Ethernet port that it uses to physically connect to the router (WAN, or Wide Area Network), and four additional Ethernet ports for wired devices (LAN or Local Area Network).
Thus, the router sends and receives networking traffic from the modem with one connection, and routes all that data through its four Ethernet ports, and through the air via the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Despite advertised numbers, wired is faster than wireless, and we still suggest using Ethernet if you want every ounce of bandwidth out of your subscription. But obviously you can’t do that with smartphones, and draping Ethernet cables along every wall is just downright ugly.

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Unfortunately, there’s no official name for this specific device. Comcast calls it a “gateway” while Spectrum simply calls it a modem. There are even listings that merely call it a modem/router combo. Regardless, you get the idea: it’s an all-in-one device that looks like your typical modem but crams a router inside. This combo unit can be beneficial and a drawback, depending on how well you want to manage your network.

Combo devices also have a few additional LEDs on the front. your combo supports digital phone service, LEDs for sending and receiving are provided as well. These LEDs will not be active if you don’t have an active digital phone subscription.
The further away those broadcasts travel, the weaker the signal thus a resulting slower speed. You get the same effect in a moving car: the further away you move from the city, the harder it is to hear your favorite music station. Its great for penetrating walls but it makes it weaker but the problem can be solved by purchasing a second wireless extender device. It repeats the network produced by the router outside the routers reach.

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