What’s the difference between modems and routers

Modems and routers are often confused, but they are actually two different devices. Here are the characteristics of each

Everyone today uses a modem to access the Internet from home. Or rather, no: we use a router. Or rather, no: we use a modem router. The confusion that revolves around these two terms, which actually identify two different devices, is now so high that most of us use them without distinction.

Router and modem, therefore, for many are now synonymous and in part it is true: all modems installed in our homes by Internet Service Providers, that is, who provides us with the ADSL or fiber connection, is actually a modem router. Even many technicians in the sector, for this reason, use the two terms with little precision because, at the end of the day, if you call that device a router or a modem, you're not wrong in either the first or second case. The difference, however, is there and it is important to know it because every modem router on the market today has different characteristics: both in its modem part and in its router part.

What is a modem

The term modem is an abbreviation for "modulator-demodulator". A modem is the device used to connect via twisted pair, fiber or radio waves to an Internet Service Provider. It is, basically, the gateway to the Internet in our home. Without a modem, we can't connect. But not all modems are the same, because not all transmission technologies on which the Internet is carried are the same.

There is ADSL, which still travels on a telephone pair. There's copper blended fiber (FTTC: Fiber to the Cabinet). There's pure fiber that goes all the way to the home (FTTH: Fiber to the Home). Each of these technologies requires a different modem and, for this reason, sometimes when we upgrade our connection (even if we keep the same ISP) we are sent a new modem at home. Many "free" modems, i.e., those we can buy ourselves online or at electronics stores, are capable of handling several different types of connection.

What is a router

The term router comes from the verb "to route". And, in fact, the router does nothing but route the connection to other devices. The router, therefore, is the device needed to create a network inside the house, or wired or Wi-Fi, to connect all devices together. In the case of a modem router, then, the two devices work hand in hand and are housed on the same electronic board, inside the same plastic box. The modem receives the Internet connection, the router "routes" it to all the devices in the house. Even in this case there are differences between one router and another, especially in the number of available Ethernet ports and their speed (two fundamental parameters to create a wired network, for example in the office) but also in the number of antennas and Wi-Fi standards supported (fundamental, instead, to create a wireless network).