What is a Cable Modem Router?

R. Kayne

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.

An Ethernet cable, which can be used to connect a computer to a router.
An Ethernet cable, which can be used to connect a computer to a router.

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.

A cable modem router.
A cable modem router.

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 wireless cable router.
A wireless cable router.

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.

Range, speed and security are three thing to consider before purchasing a cable modem router.
Range, speed and security are three thing to consider before purchasing a cable modem router.

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.

A network cable tester may be used to troubleshoot issues with a router.
A network cable tester may be used to troubleshoot issues with a router.

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Discussion Comments


I have a modem with Lan1, 2, 3, 4 but am plugged into Lan2. Do the other Lans work for connecting to a Blueray, orxbox etc.?


Has anyone ever thought about the whole "wireless" issue about electronic communication via satellite around the world with such a society driven communication diversity?

Basically, if we had a time in the past where wireless home phones could interfere with your neighbor's phone conversation as well, it is apparently not a problem today. I was wondering about the past issue about cell phone users "may" be likely to obtain cancerous molecules during their usage of those cell phones. 'm just wondering if its safe to acknowledge that maybe, maybe, while people are taking a nice stroll for health reasons, they are also strolling through radio frequencies via wireless ST's that are using devices for just living convenience, pleasure, etc.

It's just a thought, but it freaks me out to think there might be tons of electronic waves all around us nowadays. Aside from the obvious pollution, this world affects the ecosystem anyway.

It's kind of like a invisible dimension that we created of a true reality that holds many dimensions on its own. If you think I'm being funny, I'm not. So, whatever.


I want to get a modem/router but i don't want it to be attached to any type of provider do i need to be linked with some company to get internet access or is there an alternate way.


I think you guys are missing a big part of cable modem routers: the wireless aspect. A cable modem wireless router combo comes in really handy if you don't want wires all over your home or have a laptop. We have a wireless router for cable internet with our provider that works well with both our desktop PC and our laptop. The best part is that we can be on the XBox 360, the desktop, *and* the laptop with pretty much no slowdown between the three. It's great!


@Kamchatka - I agree with your theory. While anon69840 might be concerned at the age of their current cable modem router, the truth is that if it still works, there should be no need to replace it. We used to have a Netgear cable modem router and as compared to the new Linksys cable modem router we just bought yesterday, I like the Linksys much more.


@anon69840 - Several different companies make reputable cable modem routers. We use a Linksys in our home and have used it for ages with no problem. Just be sure that if there are any hardware updates, you check for them. Aside from that, I always say "don't fix it if it isn't broke," which means if it works for you, you might as well just keep it.


So far so good. Who makes a decent cable modem router? Only one I found is the Motorola, old old model.

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