Modems, routers, access points – they’re not the same
Although a router may or may not have a modem indoors and while it also may not or may not be able to broadcast an access point, modems do a specific job and so do access points. Routers also have their own purpose, although most modern routers do more than just routing.
Modems – Modulator Demodulator
A modem stands for modulator / demodulator, and this is the device into which you plug your Ethernet cable. It translates information, digital ones and zeros, into an analog signal that can then travel over the telephone wire to the Internet.
Modems were separate from motherboards in the early 2000s, and a network card would have had to be purchased. Today, modems are built into routers, whether they are DSL, cable or fiber.
Not the same as a network interface card
Compared to a network card, a Network interface card, modems are not the same. Modems are primarily used to connect to the Internet, while a network card is used to connect to a router or switch, anything that has an Ethernet port that acts as a bridge to the Internet.
Network cards are now built into motherboards as well as laptops and even cell phones (although used for WiFi instead of a wired connection). NIC type solutions are used to provide laptops and even desktops with WiFi access, which perfectly matches the problem of wireless access point versus router.
Routers – They carry data and sometimes a lot more
Routers are devices that often have more than one Ethernet port and they are used to route data between multiple devices to the Internet. Each device connected via an Ethernet point to the router obtains its own IP address, so that data requested from one device does not end up being sent to the other.
Modern routers also incorporate modems, which makes it easier for the user to connect to the Internet. Even affordable routers have built-in modems and can even accept wireless communication or in this case WiFi. But, routers are not the same as access points, which makes the router vs access point dilemma a bit more problematic.
Access points – Gateways for wireless communication
An access point is the point at which wireless devices connect when they want to access the Internet. Every time you connect to your “insert name here” Wi-Fi connection at home, you are connecting to an access point.
Access points don’t have to be the same device as a router, but they always connect to a router. Modern routers with WiFi can also be an access point, and some can support multiple access points, such as a 5.0 GHz and a 2.4 GHz.
Long range routers or even mesh WiFi have more than one access point and can cover a large area without dead zones.
In the case of routers with WiFi, the wireless router vs access point problem is in itself a solution as routers with WiFi can also provide an access point for wireless devices.
Access Point Mode Vs Router Mode – Which Is Better?
Some routers with WiFi have a mode called access point mode. This turns the router into a wireless-only access point, which limits its functionality to that of an access point.
The limitations of using access point mode on most routers are the loss of parental controls, the ability to block certain sites, no VPN, no bandwidth control, no IPV6 in some cases, and no remote management.
Putting a router in access point mode can be useful if you want to speed up your WiFi or extend its range on the contrary, provided you already have a router. This primary router is provided by an ISP and is often inferior to third-party routers.
With the new router in access point mode, it can be used to extend the range and provide access to devices further away from the router connected to the internet.
If range is not an issue, it is recommended that most routers stay in router mode.
Switches and accessories
In some cases, switches are needed to connect more devices to a network, typically over Ethernet. Switches simply connect more devices to a router and they are often used in offices and workspaces, schools and wherever there are more devices with a wired connection.
Long range routers have one or more antennas, to help reach the farthest part of your apartment or bedroom. If they are only extenders or access points, or part of a mesh system, they may not be directly connected to the Internet and therefore may not have modem.
Summary and conclusion – All in one, most of the time
Modems are used to change digital signals to analog signals and vice versa, and are used to connect to the Internet via DSL, cable, or fiber.
Routers are used to route multiple devices to the modem and then to the Internet, so that data is distributed properly. Routers can also have access points if they have WiFi capabilities. Most routers have a built-in modem.
Access points are used by wireless devices to connect to a router and therefore to the Internet. Most routers can serve as one or more access points.
Most modern routers can be a combination of all of the above and for most consumers these types are the best all-in-one solution for connecting to the internet, wired or wireless. With all of this, the details of terms like an access point, router, and modem should be easier to understand.