Not all nbn™ modem routers are equal

October 12th, 2018 - Get new posts sent straight to your inbox, click here.

When you’re choosing an nbn™ modem/router there is a lot you need to consider. The first crucial part of choosing a nbn™ modem/router is knowing whether you need a modem or a router. Modems and routers, while often used interchangeably, are not the same thing. A modem connects you to the internet, while a router gives you WiFi.

The first crucial part of the decision is knowing whether you need a modem or a router. Modems and routers, while often used interchangeably, are not the same thing. A modem connects you to the internet, while a router gives you WiFi. . A modem router is required for connections that utilise Fibre to the Node (FTTN) or Fibre to the Building (FTTB) technology types. Fixed Wireless, Fibre to the Curb (FTTC), Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), and Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) all have a nbn™ installed device that acts as the modem. This means these connections only require a router for WiFi.

Great quality modem routers offer faster maximum speeds. For example, you might be on a 50/20 nbn™ plan, with 50mbps download, and 20mbps upload speeds. A failing or poor modem router may offer lower than expected speeds. Additionally, a good modem router will experience less dropouts, and a higher number of devices able to connect to the internet.

A great modem router is essential in order to get the most out of your nbn™ connection.

What to look for when buying a modem router

When looking at modem router boxes, you’ll see a wide range of tech specs, numbers, and jargon terms. Finding the right modem router for you means understanding those specs, and then deciding what is most important..

1. How many devices are you connecting?

The number of devices you are hoping to connect to your modem router will have an impact on the type of hardware you need. Devices are connected to the modem router within a ‘band’, which can also be thought of as a ‘channel’.

Dual-band modem routers have two ‘channels’ set to 2.4GHz and 5GHz, and this is the most common hardware option.

If you require more bands due to an increased number of devices, you could opt for a tri-band modem router, which allows for a third 5GHz channel to be added.

Your ISP will be able to advise you on which modem router is best for your needs.

2. The most important number: What 802 is it?

Every modem router operates according to a standard, which is 802.11, followed by a letter. Earlier models used letters like “a”, “b”, “g” and “n”, but you’ll want a modem which has 802.11ac. This is the recommended standard.

The last ‘standard’ to be used was 802.11n, and the change to the current standard did take time to implement, which means some old devices may be this standard as a legacy.

But what does this mean for you?

Every time a new standard is used, there is an immediate boost in speed. For example, the “ac” standard can operate 80MHz channels or even switch to the 5GHz band and double channel width to 160MHz, which allows it to send a lot more data.

There is also less ‘interference’, as an “ac” modem router can access the 5GHz band, whereas previous standards could not – and on the original 2.4GHz band you will find everything from radios to baby monitors and even microwave ovens, which can all interfere with your connection.

So, if you check your modem router and the current standard is not 802.11ac, it is recommended that you upgrade your hardware in order to take advantage of the benefits.

3. Has it got USB ports?

It’s actually a good idea to get a modem router that has USB ports, because you can then connect devices such as printers or hard drives to it, and those devices can then be wirelessly accessed from any device in the house.

So, thanks to a USB port on your modem router, you’d be able to store all your family photos on a hard drive, which could then be instantly accessed from your internet TV, laptop, or phone – really anywhere in the home.

4. What’s the wireless range?

Range is important for most households. For FTTP, HFC and Fixed Wireless connections, a nbn™ connection box will be hidden in a corner of a room, and, depending on the range that the modem router provides, you might not be able to use the internet from the other end of the house. This is especially true if your house features a lot of walls or has walls made of material that is difficult for a wireless signal to penetrate (wireless signals struggle with heavier substances, such as brick).

If the modem router is otherwise perfect for your needs, don’t let the range stop you from purchasing it, however. There are other ways to enhance the range of a wireless signal – such as separate devices called Wi-Fi extenders that you can strategically place around the house to enhance the signal from the base modem – but it’s nonetheless worth knowing what the base modem router’s range is.

Of note, FTTC connections will have a small, modem-looking device, and FTTN does not require a connection device.

5. Does my ISP support this modem router?

One final thing to keep in mind is whether your ISP would recommend that modem router. Before purchasing, it’s recommended you reach out to your ISP and check. If it does, then the modem router will be a very plug-and-play device. You’ll bring it home, unbox it, plug it into the nbn™ box, and almost immediately start enjoying the benefits of the internet.

Additionally, if you have any technical support issues, your ISP will be better able to offer troubleshooting if your modem router is one that it formally supports.

If your ISP doesn’t support the modem router, that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t work, however, you will need to undergo a configuration process to get the internet working. It’s manageable (all modem router’s can be fully configured from a standard home computer), but it’s something that only confident users will want to play around with.

Visit the Aussie Broadband Knowledge Base article on how to configure popular modems with our services here.

Do your research

It’s well worth taking the time to properly research the ideal modem router for your purposes. The differences in what you’ll be able to do can be significant.

Aussie Broadband offers high quality hardware items as an add-on to their nbn™ services to ensure that your hardware doesn’t slow you down. Best of all, our modems are super easy to connect and work with, as all you have to do is plug and play. You can check out our hardware options here, or find out if the nbn™ is available in your area here.