Originally published at: http://www.howtogeek.com/187439/should-you-buy-a-router-if-your-isp-gives-you-a-combined-routermodem/
Many Internet service providers are now giving their customers combined devices that function as both a modem and a wireless router. With these devices, you don’t have to buy a router — but you can, if you like.
Comcast gave me a modem router combo. It was terrible. It was constantly dropping the connection. Plus the interface for the router functionality extremely poor. I installed my own router and it was much better.
I have a modem/router combo at home - it's got 802.11b/g/n, which is more than enough considering that it's a 1 Mbps connection. Works well, for me at least. It's easy enough to do stuff, but too bad DD-WRT isn't supported on these.
Comcrap doesn't spend one tenth of a cent more on their hardware than they absolutely have to. I bought an auxiliary WiFi router because I had to, once the ISP-supplied equipment could no longer maintain the VPN connection to my company's network (I am a 100% telecommute resource-- if this stuff doesn't work, I don't have a job).
If the equipment you get from your service provider does the trick, by all means use it-- but don't be surprised if that turns out not to be the case. Interestingly enough, my home entertainment equipment and my wife's home office still connect via the built-in router, apparently without incident. Distributing my network traffic to a dedicated router has increased the reliability of my home network dramatically. I suspect I'm keeping this setup, even if I switch ISPs.
Another reason to buy a separate router, depending on the size of your tinfoil hat, is security. Some ISPs have back-doors into their equipment which allows them to change your device's settings and/or update the device's firmware without your explicit consent or knowledge. I personally had one incident where a support tech changed my Wi-Fi security options, while I was on the phone with them, even despite my expressed objections! Always remember that the device provided by the ISP is their equipment, and they ultimately may do whatever they wish with it.
There's also more than one way to connect your own router to the network, and each has its benefits/drawbacks.
Connect it as a router. This is the method that appears to be mentioned in the article. Here, you'll hook a network cable to the LAN port of the modem on one end, and the WAN/Internet port of your router on the other. This has the benefit of putting an extra layer of NAT and firewall between your devices and the ISP's modem. However, if you've left the router functionality enabled on the modem, this could cause problems (or at least add an extra step) if you ever need to do port forwarding.
Connect it as a switch/AP. Just as some modems will let you disable their routing functions, so will most routers. Make sure you turn off DHCP and set a static LAN IP, which is within the same subnet as your modem's LAN IP, for your router before you do this. Connect a network cable to the LAN port of the modem on one end, then to a LAN port of the router on the other. You won't have the added security layer of option 1, but you should have less problems with online gaming and other things that require port forwarding. You'll also lose the ability to leverage many of your router's extra features (e.g.: dynamic DNS or QoS) that don't specifically affect the Wi-Fi or LAN side of the network alone.
99% of home users would not need to bother with a separate router.
I would never use a carrier supplied router. Your router is what separates the internet into your network. If the carrier supplies it and has access into it, then they have access into your private home network. And just because you can change the username/password doesn't mean you are restricting the only access it has. Also, the more complicated these devices get, the more fail points they have. My Motorola Surfboard Modem has been going for 7-8 years (on 24/7).
With FiOS, their router/modem combo is a requirement if television functionality is needed. It directly ties into the set top boxes. So I'm stuck with their router/modem albeit I bought my own. My preference is to use my own separate router and modem so that I have more control with what I want to do as noted in the article. But since I have set top boxes I am unable to make the switch.
Also, just a quick vocab lesson: a combined router/modem is called a "Gateway". If you're looking for them online, you'll want to search for "DSL Gateway" or "Cable Gateway".
Knowing that bit of language is important when you're in the store, too, since a gateway will usually cost significantly more than a modem; I have helped out several people at the local Best Buy who were standing there, scratching their heads, unsure which cable modem to buy to get their service started.
(No, I don't work there... I just shop there. A lot.)
You can still use your own router to isolate your systems from the ISP-controlled devices. Have the TVs hooked up to the ISP's gateway, and put the rest of your networked devices behind your own router. Connect your router with method 1 described in my post above.
Yeah, I get that too. Usually, by the time I'm done helping people, they're rather startled to find that I'm not an employee despite my lack of uniform or name tag.
If I ever get back to Comic Con, I'm going to cosplay as a greenshirt...
I have had conversations regarding network harware with the local cable and telco as these are the only real choices here. The telco uses 2wire boxes and Actiontec boxes for something close to FIOS. Cable allows users to connect whatever they want but does supply DOCSIS 3.0 modems and is currently quite competitive speed wise with the telco. The telco is the current speed queen but at an OMFG cost. The cable tops out at 100 Mbps but does not require anything other than a compatible v3.0 DOCSIS modem. My sometimes detailed conversations with tech support have elad to the inside skinny on the supplied hardware. The telco, using the 2wire stuff, suffers more dropout and flaky performance than the Motorola units cable uses. The Gemtek higher speed units (higher for the integrated wifi) also suffer from hit and miss performance. Neither are recommended to technically capable users. The Actiontec boxes have only been in use for about 6 months but the dissatisfaction is quite apparent (dripped wifi, intermittent, random reboots, speed inconsistent).
I use the cable service and have since 2000. the uptime on it has been quite high, most service loss is due to power outages. I am currently using the 3rd modem, a Motorola SurfBoard SB5100. This is the second one of these as the 1st died. I get my as advertised and promised 10Mbps down and 1 Mbps up. I currently use an old Netgear router of the WGR614 series (due to the price when I needed it). I have waiting in the wings a home built NAS box that I will use as gateway and will use another wireless router as an AP only.
I can't fault my ISP (Virgin Media (UK) 120 Mb cable service shortly to be upgraded to 152 Mb) except for the awful combined modem router; the range of the combined router was absolutely pathetic. There were many other users with the same problem and Virgin Media were unable to suggest a viable solution. The only way forward was to turn of the router of the combined unit and install a separate router. I am using an Asus Dark Knight very good range the 2.4G channel unfortunately not so good on the 5G channel.
As bcrail indicated, I don't want them to have any visibility into my network. I'll handle the rest myself. Back when DSL was brand new in my neighborhood, one of the guys that I worked with had passoword-protected his DSL gateway. About three weeks later, he got a call from AT&T wanting to know why he had a password on his gateway. He told them "I think you just answered your own question.." The ISP provides the pipe, the rest is my business.
I have had u-verse for about 5 years now and I have never trusted putting my internal network devices on the same network as AT&T's set top boxes. I have always used their IP pass-though so my router would have the public IP address. Also the forwarding rules in the AT&T devices 2-Wire RG and the NVG589 had nothing on running Tomato firmware an a Asus RT-N66U.
I know that AT&T has a lot of back doors into their residential gateways and having my router block their visibility is the primary reason I do it. Also even tough the NVG589 has B/G/N support the N is only in the 2.4 GHz range. My Asus has the 5 GHz.
Provided the ISP connection is stable, 90% of internet issues I resolve personally are done at the router level.
I reset my router MAYBE twice a year.The rest the time I change the range of addresses I use.Ill change the passwords on the WiFi on a regular basis also.
As one poster said previously the ISP is there to provide that one link, that's it.The rest is up to me.
One complaint I have with this column even though I love the wit and writing style ( who knew geeks were so smart- I mean funny!) is that what is simple for you all is not for us. And once a term is in the nomenclature for a while it becomes more difficult to ask what it means , exactly. And some of them mean the same, but with added stuff. Like wifi and bluetooth- one is both but they aren't equal- right?
Bluetooth and WiFi are two completely different things. They are both ways to connect devices together over radio links, but they are two different standards for doing so, and they have different purposes.
WiFi (also called 802.11 wireless) is for networking multiple computers or computing devices. You use WiFi when you connect your laptop to the Internet at home or at a Starbucks.
Bluetooth is for connecting accessories to a computer or mobile phone: mice, headsets, keyboards, things like that.
They're both wireless, and they both use the same radio frequencies, but they're different tools for different jobs.
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