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What is a router?
A “router” is a device that typically consists of three components: a router, a switch, and a WiFi access point. The router in the router is responsible for assigning IP addresses to devices on your network and routing traffic between devices on your network and devices outside your network. The switch allows for wired devices to be connected to each other. Typically routers have 1 to 4 ports for this purpose. Lastly, a router typically contains a WiFi access point. The WiFi access point allows for WiFi capable devices to connect to your network wirelessly. Typically wireless connections have higher latency and lower throughput.
What are wireless bands?
Wireless bands denote the frequencies that WiFi networks operate on. The two common frequencies are 2.4Ghz band and the 5Ghz band. The 2.4Ghz band allows for connection at a long distance through multiple walls. It is the most common frequency used by WiFi but it also shares it can suffer from interference from wireless phones, Bluetooth, microwaves, and other wireless devices. This interference limits the maximum speed and can increase latency. The 5Ghz band is much less crowded but suffers from poor range and limited wall penetration. However, the 5Ghz band is also capable of far greater speeds than the 2.4Ghz band.
What are wireless protocols?
There are three wireless protocols that are common today.
- 802.11G – This protocol is outdated and is limited to a speed of 54Mbps. It operates on the 2.4Ghz band.
- 802.11N – This dual band protocol has a maximum speed of 450Mbps and is the most common today.
- 802.11AC – The newest wireless protocol to be widely featured on routers. Has a maximum speed of 130Mbps and operates on the 5Ghz band only.
What are modems with built in WiFi?
Some modems are capable of performing routing and come with an access point for WiFi. We typically recommend using a separate router and modem for multiple reasons.
- It’s easier to upgrade. Your modem will most likely last you many years, however, WiFi technology is constantly improving which means you are much more likely to upgrade your router than your modem. You save money and time by not upgrading your modem at the same time.
- More control. When you install a modem your ISP generally has full control of it. To some extent, this carries over to routers if they are on the same device. By using a separate router, you limit the control your ISP has over your internal network.
- Better performance. Separate routers are typically more powerful than routers built into modems. You can also control placement more easily with a separate router. Typically a modem is placed near where your cable/fiber/telephone connection comes into your home. This is almost always on one side of your home, for best WiFi performance you would want to place this device in the center of your home. By using separate devices you can have your modem on a sidewall and your WiFi router in the center of your home for best performance.