Modem vs Router vs Switch | Differences Between Them

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Modem, router, switch- these are very common devices in a network environment. However, how many of us have got a clear conception of these network devices; do we actually know the differences these devices encompass? If you want to understand better the matter of network and how modem, router, and switch are inter-related or are varied in their function, then I would recommend you to stay with us in this article. We are going to explore the world of the internet which will be largely based on the key differences of modem vs router vs switch. To know about network cards, we can suggest you this amazing article to read.

Modem vs Router vs Switch

Basic Concept of Networking

We live in a world of the internet. Even the ones who are reading this article must have connected to the internet through their phones, computers, or tablets. I personally find it very thrilling to know the way billions of data are moved from one part of the world to the other. You, as a user of the internet, surf around the world with a single click. Have you ever wondered about it? The devices like modems, routers, switches, and others are making it possible to create a networking environment.

Today many houses and offices are connected via a Wi-Fi network which is actually a combination of work between the modem, router, and switch. Your home is connected with the Local Area Network (LAN) via the modem; that means connecting with the outside world. The router provides the opportunity to connect a network with another one. On the other hand, a switch having multiple ports allows many devices to a single internet source.

OSI model is another crucial concept that you should learn about in order to identify differences between modem, router, and switch. Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) indicates how networking occurs between computers and various devices. OSI model was initiated and approved by the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) for the purpose of creating a similar kind of network structure throughout the world. That’s how a certain company’s router can work with a switch of another company. There are 7 layers of different protocols for each of them in the OSI model.

Modem vs Router

Modem vs Router

Now that we have the basic concept of networking, we can move onto the main segments of our discussion. We start with the modem vs router issue; you will find out that the modem and router possess some similarities as well as some differences between them.

The word ‘Modem’ is actually made up of a combination of two distinct words- ‘Mod’ for modulator and ‘Dem’ for Demodulator. Generally speaking, the modem works between the computer and the telephone line, or the co-axial cable line, or the recent invention of the optic fiber line. A modem converts the digital signal into an analog signal and vice-versa. You can call it the most basic networking device which helps to move the internet in the form of 0 and 1 from your local ISP (Internet Service Provider) to your house. It works on the data-link layer (layer 2) of the OSI model.

The router is used for extending the network. Smaller networks can be connected to form a bigger network with the help of a router. Large data centers use dozens of routers which are reduced to one while connecting your house. A router actually works like traffic police. It creates multiple paths and connects different networks but with similar protocols. Router transfers data in the form of a data packet. Its main objective is to find out the shortest path through which it can traffic data in a local network. The router works on the network layer i.e. layer no. 3 of the OSI model. Cisco is a famous brand of routers.

Both the modem and the router are used to connect to the internet. Data generally come and go through the cable line into the modem and router subsequentially. Hence modem and router must be connected via a network cable. Nowadays devices with modems and routers are built in an incorporated manner. Most probably you only find a router in your home connection and won’t find a modem; don’t think the modem does not exist; it must be integrated into the router device.

Switch vs Router

Switch vs Router

The switch is used to connect multiple devices at the same time. Suppose a scenario of the network where there is no switch; what will happen? You just won’t be able to access the internet on the same network via multiple devices like a computer, phone, and notebook at the same time; you have to choose only one device which would be put under the network. The other big advantage of the switch is that it sends data to only the target devices i.e. no data is lost during the transmission. The switch works on the data-link layer (layer 3) of the OSI model.

Where the router traffics data among different networks with a view to connecting them in a local environment; the switch only helps to gain connection among devices of a single network. The statement can be understood in another way: your local ISP brings the internet to your home making connections with other networks using the router with a specific IP address; you can call it an outside process. On the other hand, the switch has nothing to do with other networks; it only allows the incoming and outgoing data to share among devices and this process occurs inside your network.

Modem vs Switch

Modem vs Switch

There is basically no connection between a modem and a switch. Both of them rather use a router to connect to the network. But some devices contain an integrated mechanism of modem, switch, and router together.

The switch has more ports compared to the modem because the former need to connect not only with the network cable but also with several devices. In a star topology, a mac address is assigned with every switch which cannot be found in devices like modems or routers. We hope we could help you understand the key differences of modem vs router vs switch.


Yes, there may be few functional differences between a modem, a router, and a switch; but all in all these devices are used for the same purpose of building connectivity. I hope the article was helpful for you to get a hold of key concepts about the key differences of modem vs router vs switch.

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