Does a Modem Affect Internet Speed?
By Todd Bowerman
When it comes to the speed of your network, your modem is just one of many components working together to deliver Internet connectivity to your laptop or desktop computer. Your modem certainly affects your overall Internet speed but is not necessarily the deciding factor in how fast your connection will be. Addressing connection speed requires looking at each individual component of your network and addressing its capabilities and functionality.
The most important factor in your networking speed is the ISP, or Internet service provider. Whether it is Comcast, Time Warner or another company, your ISP determines the maximum speed of your network with the technologies it employs and the limits it places on them. Cable is faster than DSL, and DSL is faster than dial-up. Additionally, different tiers of connection may be available; Comcast, for example, offers a faster connection speed for some cable Internet customers if they pay an additional fee.
Unless your network is hooked directly into the modem, your router is the next big factor in Internet speeds. A wireless or wired router splits your modem’s signal up so that more than one device can use it. If the router does not support high-speed connections, the speed of your modem or ISP does not matter because it is being bottlenecked by the router. Wireless-N, for instance, offers much faster Wi-Fi transfer rates than wireless-G.
Your network can only be as fast as what your computer supports. Some older wireless networking cards do not support faster wireless-N connections. Even with a high-end router and modem (and a top-notch ISP), a slow, old networking card ensures your connection speed never reaches its full potential.
The modem you use with your connection absolutely has an effect on your overall speed. Modems are split into speed tiers that designate the maximum connection speed they can support. If you are using a low-tier or older modem on a high-speed connection, you are able to connect to the Web but do not receive the full connection speed promised by your ISP. Most ISPs provide a list of compatible modems for each subscription tier on their official websites.