What is the difference between wireless modem and router do I need both to connect my desktop and WiFi laptop?

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2.7.11

The terms can be confusing, especially since many people use the wrong name and because many devices are a combination of more than one device.

Originally modem terminates the carrier's signal and provides an Ethernet feed to the user. The carrier signal usually is a DSL or Cable TV Internet feed.


Originally a router took the ethernet feed from a carrier into its WAN port and fed it out its LAN port, also as an ethernet feed. The router supports up to 254 LAN devices and provides private LAN IP addresses to them. It also routes traffic to & from LAN pcs and when proper feeds traffic out the WAN port. It permits Internet traffic in provided the inbound traffic matches an outbound request and it routes the reply to the requesting IP address.

Originally a network switch was required. This device links to all wired pcs and to the LAN.

Originally, if you wanted wireless, you needed a wireless access point which also plugged into the wired LAN. Once configured the wireless access point enabled wireless links to wireless devices.

The above is a simplification of the separate devices.

Now, as time progressed, router makers felt it prudent to integrate a 4 port network switch into the router, making a switch / router which eliminated a separate switch if you only had a few LAN devices.

After this successful integration of a router and switch, router makers then integrated a wireless access point into the device making a router / switch / wireless access point and called it a wireless router.

For some time, the modems would require the user to purchase a switch / router or a wireless router to interface to the modem.

After that, the carriers started to integrate a modem with a router and small (4 port usually) LAN network switch, eliminating the need for purchase of a second switch / router. In this case a wireless access point was needed if you wanted wireless. Not all modems have the integrated router and switch.

Finally, carriers integrated modem / router / switch / wireless access point into one unit. With these you have, in principal, all the components you need to link wired and wireless pcs to the LAN.

Having said all of the above (and hopefully not confusing you in the process), the answer to your question is really based upon what your carrier provided.

Clearly if he has an integrated modem / router / switch / wireless you have all you need and all that you need to do is configure.

If the carrier has an integrated modem / router / switch you will need to get a wireless access point.

If the carrier has given you only a modem, you need a switch / router / wireless or wireless router.

Now you need to check and see what you have.

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