A cable modem router is a device that not only acts as an access point for cable Internet access, but also doubles as a network router. The network router built into the cable modem allows more than one computer to share Internet access by directing traffic to two or more computers in a single location, such as a home or office building.
A router can be purchased separately from a cable modem and connected in tandem, but a cable modem router is handier, more efficient, and typically easier to configure. These devices come with software that gives the user access to configuration tables. Through these tables one sets up the parameters that allows the modem to successfully link up with the Internet cable signal being sent through the cable wires. Networking options are also set here.
There are two basic types of cable modem routers: wired and wireless. A wired model will require all computers that need Internet access to be physically connected to the device via Ethernet cabling. A wireless model can communicate to all computers using radio waves, negating the need for cables.
A wired cable modem router offers the best speeds and the most security, but it has the drawback of being limiting, and in some cases impractical. Unsightly cables might have to be run to different levels of a home or office building. One solution is to feed cables inside walls, ceilings or floors, but this can be expensive. It might be the best solution for a business, however, if security is paramount and the speed and bandwidth of Ethernet is a requirement.
A less expensive and far easier solution is to get a wireless cable modem router. Once configured, the device can be disconnected from all computers and placed in a central location. Internet access and network traffic is broadcast for any computer within range to receive using a wireless network card. The drawback here is that radio broadcasts deliver slower speeds than Ethernet cable, and the network is open to snooping if not encrypted. Luckily it is a small matter to set encryption options in the configuration tables.
When purchasing cable Internet access from a provider, most companies offer the customer an option to lease a cable modem that has been pre-configured to work with the service. Read the terms carefully because not all modems have a built in router. You can add a router later but if you want the whole shebang up front, check the fine print. In come cases the wired model is “free” but the wireless model requires a fee.
A pre-configured cable modem router can be a good option because there is little to do upon receiving the modem but plug it in and set up the network. On the other hand, if you like installing your own devices and are comfortable configuring hardware and software, purchasing your own cable modem router is a nice way to go. You can get the model you want and you don’t have to worry about returning it. Manufacturers typically list compatible, major Internet service companies that will work with their devices. Prices vary but generally cost $35-$75 US Dollars.