Understanding the Basics of the Wireless Router in the Home Network


The wireless router is the cornerstone of your home’s wireless network. Its key function is to provide a wireless and sometimes a wired Internet connection to devices throughout your home. This includes laptops, computers, tablets, gaming consoles, and other smart devices like an Internet-enabled television, thermostat, or security system.

Here’s how it works. A wireless router essentially takes the Internet connection that comes into your home, and breaks it up into millions of tiny pieces called packets. It then manages what packets (i.e. information) are sent to each device. When you stream a video to your iPad, check email on a PC, or control a smart home device, it’s the router that makes things happen.


What do Wireless Routers Do?

  • Provide wireless network connectivity to WiFi-enabled devices such as PCs, tablets, gaming consoles, smartphones, and more
  • Can be used for Voice over IP (VoIP) calls
  • Can be used to support IPTV/digital TV services


What Standards Should my Wireless Router Support?

When selecting a wireless router, the first thing to do is to check its Wi-Fi wireless standard (802.11b, g, n, or ac). These standards determine how fast and how far your wireless signal will go.

At this point, you should look for a wireless router that supports 802.11n or ac (with backward compatibility for 802.11b/g, so your older devices can still connect). If you’re still using an 802.11b router, this would be a good time to upgrade your equipment to take advantage of the faster speeds.


What is a Dual Band Wireless Router?

A dual band wireless router is able to transmit on the 5 GHz band as well as the 2.4 GHz band. To accomplish this, dual-band routers contain two different wireless radios.

Some wireless routers allow simultaneous dual band communication with both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz devices, providing separate network bandwidth for both links. In this way, some 802.11b/g devices can run on the 2.4 GHz band, without impacting the performance of 802.11n devices that use the 5 GHz band.


Wireless Router Security

Most wireless routers today support standard WEP securities, as well as the more secure WPA and WPA2. Learn more about wireless security and protecting your home network.


What’s a Wireless Modem Router?

Many newer DSL, fiber optic, and cable modems come equipped with built-in WiFi networking capabilities. These are called wireless modem routers.

A modem router performs the job of two devices: the broadband modem and a wireless router. If the modem you receive from your Internet Service Provider has a built-in wireless router, then you won’t need to purchase your own wireless router. 


Wired Connectivity

Ethernet. Many wireless routers include Ethernet ports. These allow you to create a hard wire connection using an Ethernet cable to certain devices that are permanently located. As a result you can take advantage of the faster performance that wired (Gigabit) Ethernet offers. This can prove useful for high bandwidth applications like streaming video and online gaming.

MoCA. MoCA is also a wired technology. It uses the existing coaxial TV wiring already in people’s homes. It works in pairs. This means you connect one MoCA device (e.g. a network adapter) to the router, and then another MoCA device (another network adapter or a network extender) further into the home near a coaxial port.

The benefit of MoCA over Ethernet is that your device (like a PC, set top box, or gaming console) does not need to be tethered in the same location or room as your router. The benefit of both wired technologies over wireless-only networks like mesh is that they provide a much more reliable and faster signal. 

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