Can I Just Buy a Modem and Have Internet? What Else You Need

Can I Just Buy A Modem and Have Internet Title Picture

Modems are the gateway for your home’s connection to the internet.

But the question is, is that all you need?

In other words, once you buy a modem will you automatically have an internet connection?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple to get an internet connection in your home.

Simply buying a modem will not provide an internet connection. In addition to a modem, an active internet plan and a router are required for a fully functioning internet connection. If any one of these components is not in place, an internet connection will not be established.

In this post, I’ll break down why you can’t just use a modem to access the internet. I’ll also talk about why you need an active internet plan and router as well.

Can You Get Internet With Just a Modem?

Let me start by saying that a modem is a crucial component when connecting to the internet.

In fact, an internet connection can’t be achieved without a functioning modem.

With this information in mind, let me describe a scenario here.

Let’s say you just moved into a new house and you don’t have internet yet.

You’ve decided that you want to get brand new home networking equipment for your new house, so you go out and buy a new modem.

You bring the modem home, set it up, and power it up. As the device powers on, you expect to see an available WiFi network pop up on your phone.

After waiting an unreasonable amount of time, the expected WiFi network never pops up. In a state of exasperation, you proceed to cry yourself to sleep wondering what you did wrong.

Does anyone know what went wrong in the scenario above?

Unfortunately, there were several things that were missing here.

First and foremost, an internet connection isn’t established just by buying a modem and powering it on. In other words, it takes more than a modem to get an internet connection.

In fact, it takes multiple components to achieve a fully functioning internet connection. These components are all needed because they each play a very specific role in the connection. A modem only provides one aspect of a complete internet connection.

Let’s dive into each of the components needed for an internet connection, and the role they play in providing internet to a home.

What Do You Need for an Internet Connection?

In order to access the internet in your home, you need:

  • An active internet plan
  • A modem (or a modem router combo device)
  • A router (if a modem router combo device isn’t used)
  • Devices that can access the internet

Without any of the above components, you won’t be able to get a usable internet connection.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these items to see why they’re important.

An Active Internet Plan

The most important aspect of an internet connection is an active internet plan.

Without an active internet plan, it doesn’t matter what other internet components you have.

To put it simply, an internet plan is step one of your internet connection. No internet plan, no internet connection. It’s as simple as that.

That would be like having a cell phone with no sim card.

So what exactly is an internet plan?

An internet plan is a contract with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) where you’re charged for the tier of internet speed that’s delivered to your home. This is usually a monthly bill for the internet service.

The delivered internet speed of the internet plan, also known as bandwidth, is measured in Megabits per second (Mbps). It’s usually presented in terms of the maximum possible internet speed you’ll experience as a member of the plan.

For reference, here’s the speed of my internet plan on one of my previous internet bills:

Internet plan speed

Notice how it says “as fast as”. That’s a fancy way of saying that 600 Mbps is the maximum possible speed of my internet plan.

Regardless of the internet plan you have in place, the bottom line is you have to have one. If you don’t have an internet plan in place, reach out to the local ISPs in your area to see what your options are.

A Modem

As I mentioned previously, a modem is another vital component of an internet connection.

That’s because the main purpose of a modem is to establish a connection with your ISP.

Once an internet plan with the ISP is activated, your modem will allow you to use that internet plan. It does this by communicating with your ISP every time you access the internet.

Any time one of the devices on your home network sends a request to the internet, the request goes through your modem to the ISP.

Internet request travels through modem to ISP

All return traffic follows the same path but in the opposite direction. Any information being sent from the internet to your devices will travel through your modem.

Internet response travels through ISP to modem

In this sense, your modem really is your home’s gateway to the internet. Everything travels through it to get to the internet.

The unfortunate part about this is that your modem can’t do everything. That’s why these other vital pieces of an internet connection are needed.

A Router

The next component that your internet connection can’t do without is your router.

Your router’s job is to take what’s provided to it by your modem (an internet connection), and share that with the devices on your home network.

There are two ways that a router does this: both wirelessly and through wired connections.

These are the two ways your devices can connect to your internet. They can either connect to the internet through one of the router’s ethernet ports, or they can connect to the internet via the WiFi network provided by the router.

To boil it down, the value that a router adds to an internet connection is that it takes the internet connection provided by a modem and provides that connection to many devices.

To be a little more specific, routers act like the brains of an internet connection. They’re able to route all the traffic on your home network to the right devices and destinations. This involves a lot of brainpower when multiple devices on a network are making requests to the internet at the same time.

Routers keep track of all that.

Unfortunately, modems do not have that kind of brainpower. They simply take the internet connection they establish with the ISP and pass it to the router to coordinate the sending and receiving of traffic.

Without a router, you’d only be able to connect one device to the internet. On top of that, the device connected to the internet would be exposed to significant cybersecurity risks.

That’s why it’s recommended that you never connect a device to the internet by connecting it directly to a modem.

Devices That Can Access the Internet

This last one’s pretty obvious.

If you have an active internet connection, modem, and router in place, your home will have a functioning internet connection.

In order to use this internet connection, you’ll need devices that can connect to your router’s home network.

In today’s world this isn’t really a concern, as it feels like almost all electronic devices can be connected to the internet.

After all, if you’re reading this article you already have a device that can connect to your functioning home network once everything is in place.

Wrap Up

Setting up an internet connection isn’t as easy as going out and buying a modem. With that said, establishing an internet connection in your home isn’t too difficult if you know what you need.

Lucky for you, you’re in that group now.

If you have any questions about what’s needed to set up an internet connection, please leave a comment below.

If you’re interested in learning more about similar topics, check out these other posts I’ve written:

What Can You Use an Internet Router For? 7 Common Uses

Router Ethernet Ports: Everything You Need to Know

What Modem Do I Have? How to Find Out

Different Modem Types: Which Is the Most Common?

What is a Modem Router Combo?

Ross Ricky

Ross Ricky is an engineer and cybersecurity professional who wants nothing more than for you to get the most out of your home network.

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