What hardware do I need for home internet?

All of your hardware home internet requirements rounded up into one convenient place.

June 01, 2022
4 min read

Home internet may be more reliable, but it’s a lot easier to get online with mobile data. Just sign up for a mobile plan, activate the SIM card, and you’re good to go. With home internet, whether it’s an NBN plan or something else, you need specific hardware to get your devices online.

Home internet plans

Before we get into hardware requirements for your local area network (LAN) at home, you’re going to want an internet plan. Below is a daily updating snapshot of the most popular NBN plans for metro areas.

For those in rural or hard-to-reach places, you might be connected via NBN Fixed Wireless or Sky Muster satellite NBN. You can see popular plans for both technologies in the daily updating list below.

For all other home internet types—including cable, ADSL2+, VDSL, private fibre and home wireless internet—check out the daily updating list of popular plans below.

Home internet technology types

The kind of internet technology that connects your home determines the kind of networking hardware you need to get online. A lot of the time, this is either included as part of an internet plan or available for purchase from your internet provider. Below are the different types of home internet technologies that we track in our comparison engine and the networking gear they need to get online:

As you can see from the list of internet technologies above, it really boils down to two main combinations: either a single modem-router or a separate modem and router.

Home internet that uses a modem-router

Whether your home internet connection is made possible via FTTB, FTTN, ADSL2+, VDSL or home wireless internet, you’re only going to need a modem-router. On the pros front, a modem-router reduces your networking hardware requirement to a single device, which allows you to connect compatible devices wirelessly via WiFi or with Ethernet cables.

Because it’s one device, it makes placement and troubleshooting easier. On the cons side of things, it’s easy to overwhelm a modem-router with too much network traffic, especially if you have a lot of devices in the home. That’s because a modem-router is doing the job of two bits of networking equipment, handling LAN and wide area network (WAN, aka internet) traffic.

Note that not all modem-routers are compatible across home internet technologies. For instance, an ADSL2+ modem-router won’t help you achieve the much faster speeds of VDSL technologies, including FTTB and FTTN. Similarly, a home wireless internet modem-router is designed to work with a SIM card and won’t be compatible with other home internet technologies. That said, a VDSL modem-router may be compatible with FTTB and FTTN. If in doubt, always check with your internet provider for any compatibility concerns.

Home internet that uses a modem and a router

All other home internet technologies that we track in our database use a combination of networking hardware: a modem and a router. The modem may have other names, including NBN connection box, but it’s a technology-dependent device that’s used to connect your home to the internet.

Because a modem is only capable of connecting one Ethernet-compatible device to the internet, it’s better paired with a router to share the internet with all of the devices in your home. Regardless of the technology that connects your home, a router is used to share the internet with your devices either wirelessly via WiFi or by wired Ethernet connection.

There’s a really good chance whatever router you’re using will be compatible with other forms of internet technology that use a modem-and-router combo. That said, your home internet provider will usually recommend particular routers, which are worth considering if you would like a smoother tech support experience if anything goes wrong.

Device compatibility

Whether you have home internet that uses a modem-router or a modem-and-router combo, all of your devices should be compatible. The only disclaimers are that wired Ethernet connections are typically limited to four devices, and those devices need to have an Ethernet port. Because WiFi is backwards compatible across generations, older and newer WiFi-capable devices will happily connect to older and newer WiFi modem-routers or routers. Still, to get the fastest speeds, especially for NBN 250 and NBN 1000 plans, you’ll need the right hardware and modern devices to take advantage of the faster download speeds.

Home internet cable requirements

Regardless of the home internet technology type, the necessary cables should come with your networking equipment. Power cables and their connected wall adaptors are a given but there are also two critical cables to consider, depending on the networking equipment.

For modem-routers, you’ll need a telephone cable to get online. This may have different names, but it’s functionally identical to the cable used to connect a landline telephone, and it connects to the DSL port on a modem and then into a nearby telephone wall outlet. You can use an older or longer cable, but it’s worth sticking with the one that comes with the modem-router to ensure the best possible speeds. Unless you’re on ADSL2+, avoid using any line filters between modem-router and wall outlet.

For internet technologies that use a modem-and-router combo, keep an eye out for the included Ethernet cable. Like telephone cables, Ethernet ports are backwards compatible with older cables, so they’ll always fit, but stick with the one in the box because newer Ethernet cables tend to be faster. Connect the Ethernet cable from the only available port on the modem to the WAN port on the router. It will be separate from the other grouped-up Ethernet cables, which are used to connect to devices in the home or a network switch if you want to have even more Ethernet options.

Note that while older Ethernet cables can comfortably keep up with internet speeds up to 100Mbps, you’ll need newer versions to reach speeds above 100Mbps (plus they’ll help with local file transfer speeds, too).

Home internet hardware placement

With the hardware specifics out of the way, it’s time to get the placement right. It can be tempting to tuck away ugly networking equipment, but this can impact performance. The general advice is to place networking equipment in a raised, central position clear of potentially interfering thick walls or other electronics.

Note that for internet technologies that use a modem and a router, this placement only applies to the router; the modem can live happily wherever you like, as long as the Ethernet cable can comfortably reach the router. Ultimately, these placement recommendations are made to help offer the best WiFi signal possible from a router or modem-router, which means there’s a better chance of seamless wireless internet throughout the home.

Bear in mind that a WiFi signal stretches out a fairly consistent coverage circle around the router or modem-router, meaning the devices that are closest to it will have the best wireless speeds and those farther away may have slower speeds. If you have signal problems, consider investing in a WiFi extender or mesh WiFi system.

Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.

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