Do I Need a Router and a Modem? Gateway vs. Router

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Most people using their home network to connect with the internet but has no idea why they are using a modem and a router.

Why do you need a modem and a router? How modem and router enhance the experience of broadband internet?

Let’s break down the things to know why and when you need a modem and a router.

Also, do you need both the router and modem or will having one be enough?

Why do I need a modem?

It would help if you had a modem when you want to bring internet to your home.

Modem sits-in-between your ISP (Internet service provider) and your computer or router.

The modem will receive an analog signal (or electrical signal) from your ISP and converts it into a digital signal, which your computer or other devices in a network can understand.

Similarly, a modem listens when your computer sends data and converts it into an analog signal, which can be transmitted over cable or telephone wire to reach your ISP.

Computers in a network can understand only digital signals represented as on or off and “0” or “1“.

Similarly, your copper cable uses electrical signals, and the telephone line uses analog signals to transmit data to the ISP.

The process of converting digital signal to analog signal and vice versa is known as Modulation and demodulation.

Combining the two words, modulation and demodulation form the name “Modem.”

The connection between the modem in your house and the internet is known as the wide-area network (WAN).

Furthermore, each modem in a network is assigned a public IP address that can be identified on the internet for communication.

When do I need a modem?

It would help if you had a modem when using the copper cable and telephone lines to access the internet.

Your modem can understand these wire signal, which is further converted to signal that your devices can understand.

If you are using a fiber-optic cable to access internet services, you don’t need a modem for this.

It is because fiber-optic cable uses light on/off pulses, which is very similar to a digital signal, so no conversion is needed.

Do I need a modem for fiber-optic?

The fiber-optic connection doesn’t require a modem, as we have mentioned earlier, but not all fiber-optic connections go all the way to the home.

Most of the fiber-optic connection covers most of the distance and then passes the baton to regular cable or telephone wire.

These cables or telephone wires require a translation when they reach the home, so we need a modem to do their job in such cases.

In most cases, the fiber-optic cable either reaches the utility box (Fiber-to-the-Curb, FTTC) or is found in the nearby hub (Fiber-to-the-Node, FTTN).

Now, you can either use copper wire or phone cables to cover the remaining distance to reach your home. Here, you need a modem to translate the signal.

If fiber-optic cable reaches your home directly, it is known as “Fiber-to-the-home,” or FTTH.

Here, Internet service providers will install a small box called Optical Network Unit (ONU), translating light signal to digital signal. In such cases, you don’t require a modem.

Do you need a modem if you have a router?

You need a modem if you want to receive internet service from your ISP over copper wire or telephone line.

If you want to communicate internally with all the devices in your network and don’t like to send data to an external network, you don’t require a modem.

Additionally, if you are requesting internet services from fiber-optic cable, you don’t require a modem.

Why do I need a router?

A router is a networking device that connects all the devices in a network to the modem.

It acts as a bridge between a modem and multiple devices in a home network.

There would be multiple devices in the network, such as computers, smartphones, smart TV, home cameras, and much more.

You can connect devices either through cable using Ethernet cable or through a wireless network.

A wireless router is far more popular because it allows wireless devices such as laptops, mobile phones, iPad to connect with it.

Using a router, you can create LAN (Local Area Network) within your house, allowing devices to share files with other peripheral devices like printers.

When do I need a router?

You need a router when you want to connect with multiple devices and keep your connection secure.

Most of the router comes with in-built firewalls that protect your devices from hackers.

Moreover, you will also find some of the routers that support VPN and route the traffic toward the VPN’s server.

Some other important functions that your router can perform are:

  • It will manage and assign IP addresses to all the connected devices in your home network.
  • The router also acts as a local domain name server.
  • It will help you customize incoming traffic by blocking some of the traffic.
  • The router will represent a single standalone device to the internet and serve your request, such as web pages on your behalf.
  • Using a router, you can handle parental controls.

Do you need a router if you have a modem?

Technically, we don’t require a router when you have a modem.

But practically, if we would like to serve multiple devices, either with a wired or wireless connection, you need a router.

The modem can only connect with one device at a time and that through a wire connection.

Therefore, we connect the router with the modem so that you can connect multiple devices at once.

What is a gateway?

When we combine the router and modem in a single device, then it is called a gateway.

It is sometimes referred to as a gateway router or gateway modem, or gateway modem router.

The gateway device consolidates the technology by combining the router and modem to take less space and fewer messy cables.

The internet service provider (ISP) offers a gateway device in their service package or charges a subscription fee.

Do I need a router and a modem?

Earlier, we required a separate device for the modem and a router.

But, with today’s technology, the two devices are combined to form a single powerful gadget.

A single gadget can perform both router and modem’s work and keep your connection safe and secure.

The router and modem combo are easy and straightforward to use devices for your home network.

It has in-built software that maintains the functionality of both communicating with ISP and creating a home network.

The advantage of having a separate router and modem is that you will have individual control of each device and increases the flexibility of buying the best quality device.

A separate device is required for business purposes where they need distinct configurations on each device.

But, for a home network, it doesn’t require a separate modem and router.

Moreover, if you buy your own device, it may cost less than one ISP.

Advantages of having separate modem and router

  • More customization features like configuration of IP address, installation of firmware, and boosting transmission power.
  • Upgrading a separate modem and router is easy, effective, and budget-friendly.
  • Greater control over devices in your home network
  • Better and extended security features like WPA2, firewalls, encryption, and VPN

The disadvantage of having a separate modem and router.

  • It will take lots of space and can be bulky.
  • It requires more wiring and multiple outlets to fit the device.
  • Require separate installation and setup process

Advantages of using modem and router combo (gateway)

  • A single device will take less space, one outlet, and fewer cables.
  • Have to deal with only one company while troubleshooting the device
  • Easy to set up and simple to use
  • May come free with your ISP with inbuilt customer support.

Disadvantages of using modem and router combo (gateway)

  • Difficulty in up-gradation, repair, and diagnosing the device
  • It will cost more in case of replacement.
  • Limited security features