Can I use my own modem with a new internet plan?

Broadband may cover all high-speed internet but just because you have a broadband modem, doesn’t mean it’ll play nice with your new internet plan.

Published on November 11, 2021
5 min read

Back in the day, broadband referred to two types of internet: ADSL and cable. Whether you were shifting from or to cable internet, you needed a cable modem. And if you were on ADSL, you needed an ADSL modem. Either way, you couldn’t recycle your modem across broadband technology types.

Not a lot has changed today now that NBN is the dominant form of home internet. In fact, things are more complicated. Depending on your broadband technology type, you’ll need a compatible modem or modem-router, which may or may not be supplied by your provider. So answering the title of this article is already a whole lot trickier than at first glance. Let’s break it down.

Photograph of a hand pushing the power button on a modem

The different types of internet modems

There are many, many different kinds of broadband technologies these days. In Australia, we have a handful to deal with. In terms of NBN internet, you’re primarily looking at either fixed-line NBN technologies in metro areas, Fixed Wireless NBN in rural and regional areas, and NBN satellite for offshore and remote places. Fixed Wireless and NBN satellite both come with modems provided by NBN Co that need to be connected to a router to share internet in your home.

The same is true for Fibre-to-the-Curb (FTTC), Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) and Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) also connect to a modem equivalent provided by NBN Co. Things get a little trickier with the other two fixed-line NBN technologies, Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) and Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB), both of which require a VDSL2-compatible modem-router to get you online.

To complicate matters further, there’s also home wireless broadband and mobile broadband in Australia, both of which require separate modem devices to get online.

Info Box
What is VDSL2?
VDSL2 is short for the second generation of ‘very-high-speed digital subscriber line’, which is effectively the successor to ADSL and is what allows FTTN and FTTB homes to connect to NBN 12, NBN 25, NBN 50 and NBN 100 plans. Despite being from the same DSL technology family, an ADSL modem isn’t compatible with VDSL2 internet.

Modem vs router

We’ve got a page dedicated to the modem vs router distinction, but let’s do a quick refresher here. A modem is a networking device that’s used to connect to the internet, whereas a router is a bit of networking kit that’s built to connect devices at home and needs to connect to a modem to get online. Modem-routers, on the other hand, are gadgets that combine the internet-connecting powers of a modem with the network-sharing skills of a router.

In terms of whether you can use your own modem, router or modem-router when shifting internet plans, the usual answer is you totally can. This assumes that you’re shifting plans and not addresses, and that you’re also not shifting broadband technology types.

Internet technologies that use a modem and a router

  • NBN FTTP
  • NBN FTTC
  • NBN HFC
  • NBN Fixed Wireless
  • NBN satellite
  • Starlink satellite
  • Mobile broadband (modem dongle)

Internet technologies that use a modem-router

  • NBN FTTN
  • NBN FTTB
  • Home wireless broadband
  • Mobile broadband (WiFi hotspot)

Let’s take a closer look at the disclaimers that apply based on each piece of networking equipment.

Can I use my own modem with a new internet plan?

Starting with NBN plans, if you already have a modem that works with one internet plan, you can safely expect it to work with another when connecting from the same address. For most NBN technology types, you don’t actually own the modem part of the connection, which means it will stay if you move out. This also means the NBN modem is compatible with whatever NBN plan you shift to.

This is different for mobile broadband, where you either buy the modem dongle outright or pay it off via a provider. Once it’s paid off, the modem dongle or WiFi hotspot is yours and, as long as there’s a signal from the plan provider’s network, you can use it to shift between plans. The only exception here is if it’s a branded modem, which may be locked to the respective network. If it’s not locked to the network, switch out the SIM card once you’ve shifted plans to get online.

Pin
Modem dongle vs WiFi hotspot
To complicate matters further, mobile broadband is compatible with either a modem dongle or WiFi hotspot, which is effectively a modem-router. There is an easy way to tell them apart, though. If it’s a modem dongle, it will have an external USB connector that’s only compatible with a single PC or Mac device at a time. If it’s a WiFi hotspot, it won’t have an external USB connector and can support multiple device connections via WiFi.

Can I use my own router with a new internet plan?

Shifting a router between NBN internet plans is a lot more straightforward than broadband technologies that require a modem-router to get online. The only catch is whether the provider you’re shifting from or to requires a username and password details to be entered into the router to get you online. Check with your provider when you shift for any necessary configuration steps.

While technically a router can be used across broadband technologies, it’s best to stick with the one you’re sent by a provider unless you have more advanced network tweaking knowledge. If things start to go wrong, it’s easier for providers to troubleshoot device issues if they are able to support the devices they sent to you. For Starlink users, stick with the provided router to similarly help simplify the connection process and any related troubleshooting later on.

Can I use my own modem-router with a new internet plan?

Again, as long as you stick with the same broadband technology at the same address, there shouldn’t be a problem shifting NBN plans with the same modem-router device. Certain providers like Telstra will provide a preconfigured modem-router, like the Telstra Smart Modem Gen 2, to get you connected if you require a landline phone service and your current modem-router doesn’t support it.

For home wireless broadband, keep an eye out for provider-branded modem-routers, which may not play nice with other home wireless broadband providers. The other catch of home wireless broadband is you need to be at a preapproved address, which means you should reach out to your provider when shifting addresses to see if they can still provide a home wireless broadband service at your new address. The same provider-branded device disclaimer applies to mobile broadband, too.

Speaking of mobile broadband, if you opt for a WiFi hotspot instead of a modem dongle, this acts as a modem-router. Assuming it’s not a provider-branded device, you should be able to switch out the SIM card if you shift to another provider.

Heads Up
4G backup

Certain providers offer modems or modem-routers that have 4G backup, which is a neat perk if the NBN goes down in your area as you can still get online. There is a catch, though: those 4G backups are tied to a particular network. If you shift providers, there’s a good chance the 4G backup part of your networking device (at the very least) won’t work.

NBN providers that supply modems

If you’re shifting addresses or upgrading any of the NBN technology types to FTTP, you may be in the market for new networking gear, whether it’s a modem-router or router. Below is a list of providers in our database that offer networking equipment (either bought outright or paid off over time):

  • Dodo: WiFi modem-router
  • Tangerine: Netcomm NF18MESH modem-router (solo or with one or two satellites)
  • Spintel: Netcomm NF18ACV modem-router
  • Superloop: Amazon Eero 6 router
  • Mate: TP-Link Archer VR1600v modem-router
  • Aussie Broadband: Google Nest WiFi router, Netcomm NF18MESH
  • Internode: TP-Link Archer VR1600v modem-router, TG-789 modem-router
  • TPG: TP-Link Archer VR1600v modem-router, Huawei HG658 modem-router, Huawei HG659 modem-router
  • Belong: Belong 4353 modem-router
  • Exetel: ZTE ZXHN H268A modem-router
  • Kogan: Kogan Internet Wireless-AC modem-router
  • MyRepublic: TP-Link Archer VR1600v modem-router
  • Southern Phone: Comnect DS224WTV modem-router
  • iiNet: TP-Link Archer VR1600v modem-router, TG-789 modem-router, TP-Link VX420-G2H modem-router
  • iPrimus: Huawei HG659 modem-router, Huawei DN8245V modem-router, TP-Link VX220 modem-router, Netcomm NL1901ACBV modem-router
  • Vodafone: Vodafone Wi-Fi Hub 2.0 modem-router
  • Optus: Optus Ultra WiFi Modem (modem-router)
  • Telstra: Telstra Smart Modem Gen 2 modem-router
Info Box
Provider routers vs modem routers
As you may notice from the list above, a lot of providers offer modem-routers instead of just routers. Modem-routers can be configured to go into ‘bridge mode’ to disable modem functionality and act as a router. So, why would you opt for a router instead of the more versatile modem-router? Well, there are perks to being a single-function networking device. Routers tend to be better at handling local networking better than modem-routers, which are designed to be split between managing both internet and local devices connected via Ethernet and/or WiFi.
Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence

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