Broadband

Will a new router work with your broadband?

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New router: be careful before buying new kit

Are you thinking about investing in a new broadband router? If so, you might be wondering if it will work with your current broadband connection. Something that reader, Pete, explores in the question he’s sent in below:

I have ordinary fibre broadband which comes into my home from a telephone line. I was interested in upgrading my standard Plusnet router to one with WiFi 6 and other new features. However, I once bought a replacement router from Curry’s and it wouldn’t work on my home connection as it didn’t have a built-in modem. I therefore took it back. My question is whether someone with a basic broadband connection like myself would be able to use the latest routers? Presumably they would need to have a modem built in and, from what I can tell, none of them do. Therefore my only option is to stick with the basic router that my ISP Plusnet provided.

It’s a great question, Pete. And one that I suspect catches many people out. So let’s explain how it works.

As Pete’s noticed, the vast majority of routers sold these days do not come with integrated modems. That means you normally can’t just do a like-for-like swap for old and new routers. So how do you use a new router? There are a couple of options.

Put your current router in modem-only mode

Some of the routers that are supplied by broadband providers have what’s known as a modem-only mode. Virgin Media’s Hubs offer this facility, for example.

Once you’ve put your current router in modem-only mode, you can connect that via Ethernet cable to the new router. You will need to connect all of your Wi-Fi and wired devices to the new router. The old router is literally now nothing but a modem, essentially passing the broadband connection to the new router.

Please, please, please don’t assume your current router has a modem-only mode before you buy a new router, because as Pete discovered, it’s not always an option. Does that mean you’re stuck with your current router? No, but you’ll need to…

Buy a dedicated modem to go with the new router

If your current router doesn’t support modem-only (note Bridge Mode is not the same thing), then you will need to buy a dedicated modem to work alongside a new router.

You will need to check with your broadband provider which type of modem is required for your type of broadband. For most fibre connections, it will be a VDSL modem, but please double-check.

Your broadband provider will also need to provide you with some settings to plug into the new modem and/or router to establish a broadband connection. Plusnet’s settings can be found here, for example.

Warning about using your own router

One of the big reasons that broadband providers supply their own routers is because it’s easier for them to offer technical support when they know the equipment customers are using. To be frank, most broadband providers hate the idea of customers replacing their router with their own kit. Indeed, if you decide to use your own router, you might find yourself on your own when it comes to technical support. Therefore, I suggest you don’t switch your router unless you’re reasonably confident that you can deal with any technical problems that might occur at your end of the connection.

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About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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