Monique Serbu | November 29, 2016
Modem Versus Router: What You Need to Know
Last Updated on October 14, 2021 by Zoi Walker
If you have an internet connection and WiFi in your home, then you have two pieces of hardware that make that connection possible: a modem and a router. They were probably installed when you signed up for your current internet plan, either as two small boxes or as one combined unit, but what do they actually do? If you’ve ever wondered what they are and why you need them, here’s everything you need to know.
What Is the Difference Between a Router and a Modem?
While they perform similar functions and are sometimes even housed in the same physical unit, modems and routers are separate devices that perform distinct functions. For best internet connection and security, you’ll want to use both a modem and a router, though technically only the modem is required.
What Does a Modem Do?
The modem establishes and maintains a connection with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and converts the signal so other devices can understand it. You can either connect a single device to the modem via Ethernet cable or connect the modem to a router, which allows you to connect multiple devices to the Internet at the same time. Because the modem has to speak the same language as your ISP, you’ll need a cable modem or a DSL modem, depending on the type of internet your ISP offers.
If you’re picking out a new modem or want to learn more about how they work, check out the CenturyLink Modems Guide & Basic Troubleshooting for all the information you need.
What Does a Router Do?
The router allows computers and other devices to access the same network—it routes the Internet signal from the modem to the appropriate device, and vice versa. The router also allows devices on the same network to communicate with each other. Most routers are now wireless, though some older versions include multiple ports to connect multiple devices via Ethernet.
You cannot connect a router to the Internet without a modem translating the signal. Think of a modem as the central hub and the router as the technology needed to make the connection more widely available. The two devices perform different tasks, but they work together to provide wireless internet to a network.
Take a look at our guide to routers for more information and frequently asked questions.
What Modem and Router Does CenturyLink Offer?
CenturyLink Internet plans now feature modems combined with routers in a single device called a gateway. Opting for the newest modem technology from CenturyLink ensures that your internet will run properly, and offers the convenience of only one piece of hardware. You can lease your modem from CenturyLink as part of your internet plan.
You can also use a third-party modem and router with your CenturyLink service, but there is no guarantee that they will have the same performance or work with the CenturyLink network. If you’re interested in using third-party devices, be sure to read the info for using non-CenturyLink modems.
Interested in CenturyLink Internet Service?
Find the perfect internet plan for your home. Shop high-speed internet plans from CenturyLink.
What Are the Advantages of Having a Router?
Many different routers are available to consumers today and they all perform a little differently. Most routers offer the benefit of a flexible connection and heightened security.
Increased Internet Access
Routers allow multiple devices to connect to the same IP address or network. With a router, you can have phones, tablets, and laptops all connected to the same wireless network at the same time. This is extremely helpful for businesses, which likely have multiple devices connected to their networks at all times.
Most routers come with some form of built-in firewall protection to help keep your network secure. These firewalls can help prevent unwanted traffic from entering or leaving your network. It is always best to connect devices to a secure network to reduce the risk of cyberattacks.
Some routers include a serial port that can be connected to an external dial-up modem. This may be a useful backup option for individuals and businesses if the primary Internet connection goes down.
CenturyLink offers a combined modem and router, which cuts down on the amount of hardware you need and keeps installation simple. You can choose to rent a router with your CenturyLink Internet plan.
Does Having a Modem and Router in Different Areas of Your Home Improve Your Internet?
Where you place your router can dramatically affect your Internet connection, for better or worse. You will likely have the best connection when you are close to the router or directly connected to it. Of course, you can’t always be sitting right next to your router or connected to it.
Follow these tips to improve your wireless connection:
- Place your router in a central location.
- Avoid placing it near metal, brick, concrete, or water, as those materials can block the signal.
- Place the router up high, such as on top of a table or desk—not hidden away behind your TV or couch.
Find a CenturyLink Internet Plan
Now that you know the difference between a modem and a router, make the most of your internet connection by learning more about CenturyLink high-speed internet and internet home service bundles.