If you want to make the most of your internet connection then take a look at our broadband router buying guide.
You can buy a router for less than £30 but it may not have all the features that you need so always check carefully exactly what the router offers before you buy. When deciding on your budget you should also factor in the cost of cables and any other equipment you may need to buy to set it up.
Making a connection
It’s possible to set up a connection to the internet using a modem and a standalone PC, but if you’ve subscribed to the internet service you need to use the correct modem to connect to that service. A dial up modem will work with any dial up internet connection, but broadband uses a number of differing technologies so the modem you choose needs to be right for the service you’ve subscribed to. Many broadband suppliers also provide a modem-router with wifi when you subscribe.
Cable or ADSL
In the UK the majority of broadband services are provided by BT or companies using BT telephone lines, or cable suppliers. However, there is also provision from wide area wireless networks and satellites but this is a lot less common.
BT and those who resell BT products provide Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line or ADSL services, whereas most other providers use cable.
Although it’s not necessary to understand the technical differences between ADSL and cable it is important to know which you are using so that you can take this into account when purchasing equipment. It’s not possible to use an ADSL modem if you have cable and vice versa so make sure you find out before you buy. If you’re not sure which you use then take a look at your internet providers website to find out.
Limited coverage and a designated service area
Less choice available
Not fully two way
Circuit fee needs to be paid by one way subscribers
Service area across the UK
More choice available
Last mile dominated by HiNet
Interconnection can be slow
Adding a router
A modem allows one PC to be connected to the internet, but if you have more than one computer that you want to connect to the internet then you need a router. Broadband routers link together two or more different networks and can allow several different machines in your home to connect to the internet.
If you have a LAN or local area network, then a router will act as a gateway between this and the web, provided that the standards are matched on both sides. If you don’t have a LAN or plan to reconfigure the one you do have then you will need to decide what equipment you have that needs to be hooked up together. This can include PC’s laptops, tablets, printers and external hard drives.
If a printer is connected to one PC on the LAN then this will need to be switched on in order for someone to print. However it is possible to find a router with a print server function so that anyone on the LAN is able to use it, which is particularly useful in offices, especially when staff are working from home.
Always check the specification of any router that you buy to ensure that it has an adequate number of ports so that you can connect up all the things that you need to.
Wired vs wireless
A wired network is a simple solution if all your equipment is close together and your cables are already in place. However, if you plan to use equipment that’s not close by each other then wireless is a better option.
When choosing a wireless broadband router choose something with lots of Ethernet or LAN ports so all your local devices can be connected by cable and everything else can be connected wirelessly.
Wireless routers work by receiving and transmitting data so if you are going to connect this way then the computers you are using should have a compatible transceiver. You can purchase cards for laptops that allow this, or can place a card in your PC or use a USB adaptor. However, the majority of laptops, PC’s and other devices now come with wireless connectivity as standard so you probably will not need to do this.
Broadband routers use radio waves to send a signal to the different devices using broadband around the home. As with any type of radio wave it can be obstructed and the further you are from the router the weaker the connection will be. When placing your router try to put it somewhere with as few obstructions as possible to get the best signal strength.
Internet security is a big issue today so if you are planning to use broadband for work or if you simply want to ensure your privacy then you could choose a router with built in firewall protection. When you set up your wireless router it’s very important to follow all the security measures set out or anyone will be able to use your internet connection.
When installing any wireless router or when you buy a new PC or laptop it’s essential to set up security and anti-virus software to protect your PC. There are plenty of effective free solutions out there, such as Avast & Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, to name just two. We recommend having both an anti-virus and an anti-malware program, each one being aimed at different threats. More and more anti-virus programs offer an extended security suite with a firewall. However, many find that Windows' firewall does a decent enough job.
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