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Modem vs. Router | Difference between Modem and Router

Uncertain about the difference between a modem and a router? Determine what each accomplishes and how it can save you money on your internet subscription.

]Modem and router both link devices to the internet, but they perform different tasks. Modems connect home networks to ISPs. A router lets your wired and wireless devices share an internet connection and communicate directly. Your internet service provider may give you a gateway, a single box that acts as a modem and router, but these are different technologies. To connect all your gadgets to the internet, you need a modem and router, integrated or not.

If possible, cable internet users without gigabit speeds should use a separate modem and router. Modems last years because modem technology advances slowly. However, you may need to upgrade a router if you want better coverage, have added more devices to your network, or want to take advantage of the latest Wi-Fi technology, which changes faster than modem standards. Use your own modem and router instead of your cable provider’s to save $5 to $15 on your monthly internet cost.

If you have DSL or fiber internet, your ISP may compel you to use their modem, which also acts as a gateway and router. If you also have phone service from your ISP, the issue is more complicated.

In this topic, we will learn how to distinguish between a modem and a router, but first, we will learn what a modem and a router are, as well as their functions, features, and distinguishing characteristics.

| More: DSL vs Cable Internet


What is a Modem?

The signal is modulated or demodulated by a modem. To obtain an internet connection for a home or business, it keeps a dedicated connection with the ISP.

What is a Modem?

  • It acts as a bridge between the internet/telephone line and the computer.
  • The reason to use the modem for an internet connection is that both the internet and the computer take two different signals. It means that the internet sends the analog signal, but the computer system can only understand the digital signal. So, we need a device that can convert an analog signal to a digital signal and vice versa. To do this, we need a modem.
  • It modulates the incoming analog signal from the internet to digital signal and directs it to the computer, and vice versa.
  • Usually, we get the modem from the ISP only when we take a new internet plan.
  • It also performs data compression, error correction and controls the flow of information. It speed-up the process of transmission of data by grouping the data and send it in one go.


How does modem work?

As you’ve likely realized by this point, the modem is in charge of modulating and demodulating the signal. The modem’s operation is based on the same procedure.

Between the phone line and the computer system or router is the modem. It uses the built-in ethernet port to connect the devices. For a single PC, it directly connects the ISP (Internet service provider) to the home network. Alternately, it is linked to the router to allow connections from multiple devices.

The incoming analog signal from telephone lines or optical fiber is converted to a digital signal and sent to the PC in the diagram below. We can’t access the internet without a modem.

Types of Modem

The modem can be of various types based on data transmission and how it is installed. These types are given below:

1. External Modem:

  • The external modem is connected outside the computer system using a serial cable.
  • The installation is very easy, and it also provides a high data transmission rate.
  • It is expensive but still used due to its high-speed data transmission in offices, mostly to avoid interruption in network connectivity.

2. Internal Modem:

  • As its name suggests, the internal modem is installed over a PC’s motherboard, termed as the internal modem.
  • It looks similar to an electronic circuit and mounted into an expansion slot of the motherboard.
  • The installation is complex, and its data transmission speed is also slow; hence it is used for the dedicated computer in homes/ or small spaces.

3. Wireless Modem

  • Wireless modems are connected to the computer systems without any cable, and most people use these modems for their personal use.
  • These modems use radio frequencies to transmit the data through the air and also provides good transmission speed.

4. Dial-up Modem

  • Dial-up modem establishes the internet connection by connecting the ISP to the computer using the conventional telephone line.
  • It uses a PSTN facility (Public Switched telephone network) and provides a transmission speed of 56kb/sec.

5. Cable Modem

  • The cable modem is known as the broadband device as it allows the computer to communicate with ISP over a landline connection.
  • It is connected with the landline connection using the coaxial cable and with the computer using the ethernet.

6. DSL Modem

  • DSL stands for Digital Subscriber line that allows the transmission of data over the normal telephone line.
  • It provides a high data transmission speed, hence widely used in offices/homes.
  • It can be used to connect to a computer or router to provide the internet connection through the ethernet port or USB port.
  • The DSL modems are of two types:
  • ADSL Modem
  • SDSL Modem

7. Satellite Modem

  • Satellite modems are expensive modems and do not require any telephone connection for the internet.
  • It uses satellite technology to send or receive the data.
  • The speed of the modem is comparatively slower than DSL or cable Modem.

8. Half-duplex Modem

  • As the name suggests, it allows transmitting the data in one direction only at a time.
  • It means if it is receiving the signal from one end, at that time, it will stop receiving the signal at another end. Once the transmission of one end is completed, then only the other end can transmit the data.

9. Full Duplex Modem

  • The full-duplex modems can transmit the data from both ends at the same time.
  • It means it can receive the data from one end and the other end simultaneously without any interruption.

10. Four-wire Modem

  • It splits the pair of wires for incoming and outgoing data carriers.
  • With this split, it can transmit the same frequency on both ends.

11. Two-wire Modem

  • It uses a pair of wires hence called two-wire modems. Only these two wires are used for incoming and outgoing carriers.

Functions of Modem

There are mainly two functions that a modem performs, which are given below:

  • Modulate and demodulate the electrical signal from analog to digital and digital to analog.
  • Provide a secure connection to protect against line overload and other connection problems.

Advantages of Modems

  • The modem enables us to use the internet connection to connect with the entire world.
  • Speed is dependent on the cost of the modem.

What is a Router?

The router, as its name suggests, is a networking device in charge of directing data packets over a network from source to destination. It distributes or routes the modem’s internet connection to all wired and wireless networking devices, including PCs, laptops, mobile phones, tablets, and other devices. Additionally, it makes it possible for various devices to communicate with one another on the same network.

In the beginning, homes only had a single computer system. We need routers to provide internet connectivity to all the available devices in the home or office because multiple devices today require the internet to function.

What is a Router?

There are primarily two types of routers: wired and wireless.

An Ethernet cable is required to connect to a wired router in order to use the internet. In contrast, a wireless router allows us to connect our networking devices to it without the use of cables using Wi-fi technology.

Additionally, it offers us security features and protects our devices on the network from outside threats.

How does a router work?

  • To enable communication between these devices and the internet, a router first attaches the modem to other devices.
  • The defined IP address data packets are routed or transmitted by the router from one network to another or within a network. It achieves this by giving each device an internet-based local IP address, which guarantees the correct destination and prevents data from getting lost in the network.
  • The best and fastest route is identified, and data packets are then sent from that route to the network’s devices.
  • It functions similarly to a delivery package that has a specific address so that it can only be delivered to the intended recipient.

How does a router work?

The function of a Router

  • The main function of a router is to keep the network up & to run smoothly.
  • To do this, they connect computers and other networking devices such as Mobile, tablets, printers, etc., to communicate with each other.

Types of Router

There are different types of the router; some popular types are given below:

1. Wireless Router

  • Wireless routers are the most commonly used routers in offices and homes as they don’t need any wire or cable to connect with networking devices.
  • It provides a secure connection, and only authenticated users can access the network using the id & password.
  • It can be accessed by the n number of users within the specified range.

2. Wired Router/Broadband Router

  • As its name suggests, it requires a wire or cable to connect to the network devices.
  • Such routers are used mostly in schools or small offices to connect the PCs with the Ethernet cable.
  • It also has a Wi-fi access point, and a mobile phone can be connected to it using the VOIP (Voice-over-Internet Protocol) technology.
  • It is connected to the ADSL modems to take the transmission data from the modem and distribute it to a further network.

3. Edge Router

  • Edge router can be either Wired/Wireless types that transmit the data packet between two or more networks, not within a network.
  • These routers are placed at the edge of networks, hence called Edge router, and connect with ISP or another network in an organization.
  • The main task of the edge router is to maintain smooth communication between the networks.

4. Core Router

  • The core routers are also wired/wireless routers, which distribute the data packets within a network, not between two networks.
  • These are designed to become the backbone of a network and allow the heavy transfer of data.

5. Virtual Router

  • This software allows the computers and servers to operate like routers and share data packets similar to the physical ones.
  • These are more flexible than the physical, as they can be scaled up as per the business requirement.

Advantages of Router

  • The wireless routers are mostly used that enable most of the networking devices to connect easily at any time, without the worry of a bunch of wires.
  • It can connect with the different architecture of networks such as Ethernet cable, Wi-fi, or WLAN.
  • It provides highly secures network access with password protection.
  • It reduces the network traffic with the help of the collision feature.
  • It provides data packets to the correct destination with the best route using the routing table and intelligence.

Difference chart between Modem and Router

Parameters Modem Router
Definition A modem is a device that modulates and demodulates the electrical signal and maintains a dedicated connection between the internet and home/office network. The router is a networking device that enables multiple devices to connect to wired or wireless networks.
Operating Layer of OSI model. It works on the data link layer of the OSI model. It works on the physical, data-link, and network layers of the OSI model.
How does it work? It acts like a signal modulate and demodulator, which means it modulates the electrical signal to a digital signal and sends it to a PC or computer, demodulates the signal from digital to analog, and sends it to the internet. It routes the data packets from one source to a defined destination by following the routing table. It enables multiple network devices to connect over the given network.
Security The modem transmits the data without any authentication; hence it is not secure. The router provides complete security with passwords and checks each data packet before transmitting it over a given network.
Cable Used RJ45 to connect with router, and RJ11 to connect with a telephone line. RJ45 cable is used.
Placed A modem is placed between the telephone line and computer or router. A router is placed between the modem and other networking devices.
Internet Access It is essential to have a modem to access the internet as it connects the ISP to our PC. We can access the internet without using a router.
Main Purpose It takes the requested information from the internet to the computer. It distributes the information from the modem to the given network.
Number of connected devices It can directly be connected to only one device that can be either a PC or a router. Routers can connect to multiple network devices using ethernet cable or Wi-Fi.
Ports Two ports are used to connect the telephone line/ISP and one for the router. The number of Ports varies, and at minimum, it can have 2 to 4 ports.

Functions of Modem

Function to be performed at the transmitting end:

  • Convert the data (0s and 1 s) into an appropriate analog signal.
  • Perform the line control and signaling to other ends of a phone line.
  • Send the dialing signal if the modem is designed to dial without the presence of a user.
  • Offer protection against line overload and other problems.

Function to be performed at the receiving end:

  • Receiving the analog signal and demodulate them
  • Put the demodulate into RS-232 format connect to RS-232 interface.
  • Perform line signaling and control.
  • Have protection against the overload problem.

Functions of Router

  • Creates a local area network(LAN).
  • It allows you to split your internet connection to all of your devices.
  • Connect different media/devices with each other
  • Run a firewall.
  • The routers determine where to send information from one computer to another
  • Packet Forwarding, Switching and filtering.
  • Router also makes sure that information does make it to the intended destination.
  • Connect to a VPN

Types of Modems

The primary modem types are listed below:

Dial-up Modem: This type of modem connects two end devices, such as two personal computers, using an analog telephone line. It provides a connection between an analog system and a digital system. On the phone line, it modulates the binary data into the carrier signal.

DSL Modem: The DSL model transmits signals using twisted pair cable. Compared to dial-up modems, it will radiate at higher frequencies and cover a wider area. According to the type and configuration, it offers speeds of up to 2 Mbps and even more.

Radio and television signals can be carried by a cable modem thanks to its design. To convert the signals into a compatible mode, it can be configured internally or externally with the television line.

Mobile Broadband Modems: These modems use mobile phone networks like GRPS, Wi-Max, UMTS, etc. to access the internet. They are also known as wireless modems. They have a laptop or PC built into them. For internet access, they can also be inserted inside the USB port.

Half Duplex Modem: With this kind of modem, a single-directional signal can be transmitted. As a result, if the modem is receiving an incoming signal, it will signal the sending point to stop sending data until it has finished the process of receiving signals.

Full Duplex Modem: This type of modem enables simultaneous transmission in both directions. There are two carriers on the line for these modems.

A separate pair of wires is used for the incoming and outgoing carrier in a four-wire modem. Therefore, both ends of the transmission can use the same frequency.

A pair of wires are used by a two-wire modem for both incoming and outgoing carriers. The same frequency can be used for transmission if, however, we are using the half-duplex mode because only one instance of data flow in the same direction at once.


Following extensive discussion of modems and routers, it is clear that a modem is required for a single networking device in order to have an internet connection at home or in the office. We therefore need routers to distribute this data to other networking devices. These days, both devices are combined into a single unit called an integrated device, which eliminates the need for two separate devices.


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