How Does a Modem and Router Work?

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Updated August 9, 2022

If you are shopping around for devices to power a wireless network, you may wonder how modems and routers work. The best routers, after all, are only as good as the modems they are being supported by. Keep reading to learn all about the symbiotic relationship enjoyed by these two gadgets.


  • Modems receive an Internet signal from an Internet provider, where it can then be passed on to the router.
  • Routers transform an analog signal into a wireless one, creating a wireless network in the process.
  • Combination wireless router and modem devices include dual functionalities, so you won’t need separate devices.

Modems, Routers, and Hybrids Explained

There are many routers and modems available on the marketplace if you are wondering what kind of router you have. Now, most people won’t have multiple routers, but you can have more than one. Alternatively, if you have recently changed out your router, you may need to review the manual for details on its capabilities. Here is a brief synopsis of how each component works to deliver high-speed Internet to your home.

Insider Tip

A combined router/modem device also offers the advantage of only using up one power outlet.


Modems are the actual carriers of the Internet signal that eventually becomes wireless Internet. If you have cable Internet, this signal is delivered via coax cable to the modem. Modems do not need routers to operate, as you could just plug any device into it via an Ethernet cable. However, routers need modems as, without them, they won’t have any signal to disseminate Internet in the home or office. Routers are what plug into the modem to provide internet access throughout a home. Modems come in various shapes and sizes and receive Internet via cable connection, satellite, and through other means provided for by your Internet service provider. That said, not all routers will work with just any modem. Certain ISPs require specific makes and models to work with their service.


Routers connect to modems and work to deliver a stable wireless Internet connection. How do they do this? The router connects to the modem via an Ethernet cable into the router’s Internet port or WAN port. The router transforms the analog Internet signal into wireless signals, which it is then routed throughout the network. Your various gadgets can access the Internet by hooking up to your network or by plugging straight into the router itself, via USB ports and Ethernet ports. Routers have many uses beyond simply delivering internet if you are wondering how to use a router as a wifi adapter.

Additionally, you may also wonder what are router parts used for and how many IP addresses a router should have.

Combined Routers and Modems

Combined routers and modems, otherwise known as hybrid routers, offer the functionalities of both of the above devices. In other words, you won’t have to plug a LAN cable from your modem to your router, as everything will arrive pre-connected in one handy gadget. In most cases, combination routers are available via your ISP, but there are some well-regarded models available for purchase. The primary reason a consumer chooses a hybrid router is that they eliminate clutter, though at the expense of flexibility.


What is a gateway 2-in-1 device?

This is another name for a combination router or hybrid router. Using one eliminates the need for a separate modem, as both devices are included to allow for universal Internet access.

How to choose between a cable modem and a cable modem router?

A router combo is a good choice if space is at a premium and you don’t want to find the room for a separate modem. Dedicated modems and routers do allow more flexibility when it comes to the type of Internet connection and even Internet speeds.

How to choose the right cable modem for a business?

This depends on your needs, as there are many types of routers and modems. Look for one that integrates with your setups, such as your wifi router or fiber Internet package.

STAT: Remember that the modem is your network’s translator, while the router is more like an air-traffic controller, communicating with the “planes,” keeping order, and making sure everyone is safe. (source)

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