What Is the Difference Between Broadband & Wireless Routers?

By Jacob Andrew

Home-based routers often combine many technologies into one unit, including broadband and wireless access.
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The terms wireless and broadband are bandied about in a world of evolving Internet technologies. Routers play an important part in helping users access these services, but "broadband" and "wireless" often apply to different aspects of that access. Wireless and broadband have many key differences, but these are mostly semantic.

The Difference Between the Words

The words "wireless" and "broadband" simply refer to two major groups of communications methods. The word "wireless" refers to communication through radio frequencies, while "broadband" pertains to any type of high-speed communications media, which can be wired or wireless. Broadband connections include Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and cable Internet services. Wireless can include cellular radio frequencies or 802.11 wireless Ethernet services.

Routers vs. Modems

The term "broadband router" is often a misnomer, since broadband is typically delivered over a long-range network medium such as coaxial cables or telephone wires. These media require modems, which convert these kinds of cables into a compatible computer or router connection. A router, in turn, can be connected to this broadband modem, thus providing additional connective capability. Some companies make all-in-one units that include both the modem and a router in one housing, though typically the two are separate. Consumer-level routers are often sold as "broadband" routers, since they are designed to receive an RJ-45 (a plug that is similar to a telephone wire in shape, but larger) cable connection from a broadband router and share it with other computers.

"Broadband" vs. "Wireless" Routers

Wireless routers are often broadband routers with the added capability for devices to connect via compatible 802.11A, -B, -G or --N signal standards. When a wireless router does not have the ability to connect other wired devices, it is typically referred to as a wireless access point. All of these routers come with an RJ-45 port set apart from the other ports and labeled "Internet" or "external." This port connects to the broadband service.

Wireless Broadband From Cellular Companies

A new form of "wireless router" has become more prevalent, because of the popularity of cellular broadband networks. These routers are unique in that their "broadband" connection is actually the wireless 3G or 4G connection used by smartphones to browse the Internet. The purpose of these devices remains the same, allowing multiple devices, such as computers, to connect through a single broadband connection.