Modem, Router and Access point: the differences between each and which is best for user

ByAdan Flannigan 2019-08-02 1320

How did we go from having a modem to having a router at home? What if we actually have a modem inside a router? What exactly are the access points? When it comes to differentiating between the different devices for setting up a home network, this type of doubt can arise. That's why it's important to know the difference between each of these devices and which one best suits each one's needs.

Modem, Router and Access point:

If everyone has a router at home, which is installed by default by the operator when the Internet is contracted. The connection speed can be greatly increased if the network is optimized, for example with a more powerful router or with access points. But of course, you have to know when each one is convenient.

What is a modem?

The function of a modem is to modulate and demodulate an analog signal. The modulation process is what converts digital signals into analog, the demodulation process does the opposite, from analog signal to digital. What for? To be able to send the signal and establish a connection via analog telephone lines. It is basically the one that makes it possible for the Internet to reach a home via the landline.


The modem is therefore the one that allows the signal offered by the Internet provider/operator/ISP to be connected to the computer or other digital devices. Since the signal coming from the supplier is analogue and arrives by coaxial cable or fibre, a device capable of transforming it into a digital one is required. The same is true when data is sent from household devices outdoors.

What is a router?

Router is the most common device we find. This is the device that operators normally place in the home when an Internet service is contracted. The router, as its name suggests, "routes" the signal to direct connecting traffic to the appropriate devices. Since the modem simply converts the signal to digital, you need an extra device capable of sending that signal to the right devices if there are several.


The router sends the signal either via Ethernet cable (usually has four ports on the back) or Wi-Fi (via the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands), thanks to the antenna they have. It is therefore the device responsible for making the other devices can connect to the modem and that the information from each of them is not mixed with each other.

Now, here comes the trick and what generates the confusion. The router we have at home is not really just a router, but a device that has inside the modem and router. Although in recent years the use of the word router has become popular to encompass both.

What is an access point and why is it not a repeater?

The last device we need to know is the access point. Its name once again describes its function: to create an Internet access point where there is none. We could say that this is an extension of the router, create a "second router" to provide better connectivity where the main router does not arrive.

access point 

The access point connects to the router via an Ethernet cable that gives it the highest possible network speed so that it can distribute it via Wi-Fi to areas where the main router does not reach. It is important that you connect via Ethernet, because if you only connect via Wi-Fi to the router... it is not an access point, it is an extensive network or repeater. The repeater simply picks up as much signal as possible from the main router and repeats it back to an area where there isn't as much.

Here the important thing is to get an access point if you want to improve the Internet connection in an area where it is poor and you want it to be as perfect as possible. The access point is usually used for example in houses with two floors or in offices, where a single router is short.

Which one is right for user?

There's really not much mystery when it comes to choosing the right one for each user. There is not much mystery by the simple fact that each of the devices "depends on the previous". That is, the access point requires a router, while the router requires a modem.

Individual modems are no longer in use today, a single cable connection makes it impossible to use the Internet properly in a world full of wireless devices connected via Wi-Fi. Therefore, we can automatically rule out that the user needs only one modem to meet their needs.

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