If you play games online or work from home, you know the importance of a fast and reliable internet connection.
Regular drops in internet speed are frustrating and can affect your overall online experience.
As a result, you may look for different ways to speed up your connection.
A modem is one of the main components of any internet connection, but can it affect your internet speed?
Does A Modem Affect Internet Speed?
Yes, a modem can decrease your internet speed if it can’t support the speed provided by your ISP.
For example, if your plan’s maximum speed is 1 Gbps but your modem only supports 300 Mbps, your maximum speed is 300 Mbps.
That’s why you should always upgrade your modem when you get a faster data plan to make sure the modem can handle it.
The modem’s hardware specs, connection ports, DOCSIS version, and firmware can determine the highest speed the device can handle.
What Does A Modem Do?
When you get internet service from your ISP, you usually receive a small box with several lights, called a modem.
A modem is a critical component of any internet network, without which, a connection is impossible.
It works like a bridge between your ISP and your home network to bring the internet to your home.
The signals sent from your ISP to your home network are analog, while those that your computer or smartphone works with are digital.
In this process, you’ll need a device to turn analog signals into digital, readable by your devices.
That’s where the modem comes into play.
It’s the device that turns signals from analog to digital and vice versa, enabling devices to connect to the internet by allowing digital devices to talk to telephone lines.
A modem gets its name from its primary job: modulating and demodulating.
Simply put, modulating a signal refers to placing digital signals on top of analog signals, working like carriers.
That’s the only way you can transfer digital signals through telephone lines, which only carry analog signals.
Demodulating is the opposite process.
The analog signals that carry digital data come into the modem, translating them into purely digital signals that your computers or smart devices can understand.
It forms a network with the ISP’s internet known as the Wide Area Network (WAN).
Each modem has a specific IP address used to identify it on the internet.
Do You Need A Modem To Connect To The Internet?
While a modem is essential in giving you an internet connection, a standalone modem isn’t the only device that can do that.
You can find integrated modems on some devices that connect to the internet.
These integrated modems do the same job as a standalone modem: translating analog signals into digital signals and vice versa.
For example, smartphones have built-in modems called Baseband Processors, which allow you to connect to the internet via your mobile data or communicate with other smart devices through radiofrequency signals.
Most modern laptops also have integrated modems that allow you to connect to the internet directly.
They have a phone line jack that you can use to connect it to the phone line socket and connect to the internet.
It works with the CPU and has dedicated RAM to function more efficiently.
You can’t use your telephone line when you use the built-in modem to connect to the internet.
That’s why some laptops have two ports for a phone line.
One is for connecting to the internet and the other for making phone calls.
Your laptop settings show if you have a built-in modem or not.
Type system Information into Cortana’s search box and press Enter.
Expand the menu under Components in the new window and look for Modem.
When you click on Modem, you can find your built-in modem’s specs in the right panel.
If you don’t have an integrated modem, there’s no information about it.
Another case when you don’t need a standalone modem is when you use a router/modem combo.
As the name suggests, these devices perform the functions of a modem and a router, eliminating the need for two separate devices.
All of these types of modems can affect your internet speed in different ways.
How Does The Modem Affect Internet Speed?
When you purchase an internet plan from your ISP, it gives you a maximum speed expressed in Mbps or Gbps.
That’s the highest speed you can get within that specific plan, and nothing can help you exceed that.
However, many factors may work together to reduce your internet speed below the maximum speed.
One of these factors is your modem.
Here’s how it can affect your internet speed:
1. Hardware Specs
Purchasing the fastest internet plan doesn’t necessarily give you a high-speed connection if your modem’s hardware can’t support it.
The technology used in modems can become obsolete quickly, and if you have an old modem, you’re probably missing out on connection speed.
In addition, like any electronic device, modems can also face reduced performance over time since they experience wear and tear.
That’s why your ISP offers to change your modem when you upgrade your internet plan.
Different modem components can affect its capacity to accept high internet speeds.
2. DOCSIS Version
Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification is a standard for transferring data via TV cables.
It’s one of the main features that determine the maximum speed you can get.
The higher the DOCSIS version, the higher speed your modem can support.
For example, a DOCSIS 3.0 modem can support 1 Gbps of download and 200 Mbps of upload speed, while a DOCSIS 3.1 modem allows for 10 Gbps of download and 2 Gbps of upload speed.
That’s a huge improvement that shows how the DOCSIS version can affect your internet speed.
Now, if you have DOCSIS 2.0 modem, it can only support 40 Mbps of download and 30 Mbps of upload speed.
Even if you have the fastest internet connection, you can only get that amount of speed.
Your modem’s firmware is the essential software that makes it run.
Like any other software, it’s critical to be updated to avoid bugs and errors and get new features.
If your modem’s firmware isn’t updated, it doesn’t receive the upgrades that make it compatible with the ISP services.
As a result, it may bottleneck the internet speed because it can’t handle it.
Since most ISPs automatically update firmware for newer models, your modem’s software is probably outdated if it’s old.
4. Connection Ports
Ethernet ports are other hardware components determining the highest internet speed you can get.
Modems have different ethernet port types, each featuring different technologies and allowing different maximum speeds.
Your modem’s ethernet port can be Fast, Gigabit, and 10 Gigabit, supporting 100 Mbps, 1 Gbps, and 10 Gbps, respectively.
Similarly, the Ethernet cables you use to connect the modem to other devices can reduce your internet speed.
Even if you have a 10 GB Ethernet port, you won’t get 10 GB of speed if your Ethernet cable doesn’t support it.
That’s why you should get the cable that matches your port.
For example, a Cat5 Ethernet cable is only good for a Fast Ethernet port, and for Gigabit and 10 Gigabit ports, you must get Cat5e and Cat6a cables, respectively.
If you have a router/modem combo, the router’s features also affect your internet speed.
The router is responsible for broadcasting Wi-Fi signals and distributing the internet connection among the connected devices.
The router’s features determine how fast your internet will be.
One of the most important factors you should remember is the router/modem combo’s location because the router sends Wi-Fi signals that can get strong or weak depending on the location.
For example, if multiple barriers exist between the modem and your devices, the Wi-Fi signals can’t get to the device strong enough to deliver a high speed.
Plus, it shouldn’t be placed behind furniture or inside cabinets.
Putting the modem inside a cabinet or any other place with little airflow will lead to blocked vents and raised temperatures.
An overheated modem will face reduced functionality, and you may experience slower speeds.
Concrete walls also block the Wi-Fi signals from getting to your devices, so make sure to put your modem in the same room as the devices connected to it.
The best place for a modem or router is on a shelf, or elevated spot where there’s little interference from other devices and Wi-Fi signals can travel freely.
How To Make Sure Your Modem Is Slowing Down The Internet
Your internet connection speed depends on many factors inside the connection chain from the ISP to your end device.
The weakest link principle determines the fastest speed you can get from your internet plan.
According to this principle, your internet connection is as fast as the slowest device inside the chain.
You’ll get a slower connection if any of these devices, including the modem, the router, or your connected device can’t support your internet speed.
Even software-related issues, such as malware infection, can affect your internet speed.
Hackers can attack your devices and leech off your bandwidth to follow their activities, such as mining digital currencies.
Because of this, if you have a slow connection, your modem may not be the only culprit.
To ensure your modem delivers the speed promised by your ISP, you can do a simple test.
At first, you need to know the internet plan’s speed that you’ve purchased.
This number, expressed in megabytes per second or gigabytes per second, is the maximum speed you can get from your ISP.
You may not always get this speed, so be prepared to have lower readings.
Then, if you have a router that provides a wireless connection to your devices, you should disconnect it from the modem and hook up your computer directly to the modem via an ethernet cable.
This way, you’ll make sure nothing can interfere with the signals.
Then, run a speed test using one of the online tools, like Ookla.
The reported number can give a general idea of how fast your internet connection is and how much your modem affects it.
You may want to compare your internet speed with the router connected and across different devices.
This comparison can show which devices bottleneck the internet speed more than others.
How To Speed Up Your Internet Connection
As mentioned, many factors affect your internet speed, so you can address them separately to get a faster connection.
Here’s what you can do:
1. Upgrade Your Plan
If you’re convinced that your slow internet connection is from your ISP, it’s time to upgrade to a higher plan.
However, there are some ISP-related factors that you can’t change.
For example, the ISP’s infrastructure affects your internet speed.
If your area doesn’t have fiber optic cables, it probably uses the telephone line, which is slower.
They may decide to change their infrastructure and use fiber internet, which means they will notify you to change your modem and internet plan.
However, if the infrastructure remains the same, you can contact them and ask them for a faster data plan.
There’s a catch, though.
You should ensure that your devices—including the modem, the router, and your smart devices—support the new speed.
Otherwise, there’s no point in upgrading your plan.
2. Get A New Modem
As mentioned, your modem can’t increase your internet speed because your ISP determines how fast your connection can be.
However, if the modem is slowing down your connection because it’s old, you’ll get a massive speed boost if you upgrade it.
Suppose you’ve upgraded your internet connection while your modem is old and bottlenecks your connection.
In that case, getting a modern modem will help you get the speed promised by your data plan.
You can contact your ISP’s support team and ask them about the best modems compatible with your current plan.
3. Restart Your Modem
Like any other electronic device, your modem can benefit from occasional reboots.
Over time, modems develop bugs in their firmware or experience caching issues that reduce your internet speed.
Rebooting the modem helps eliminate these bugs and speed up your connection even if you don’t know the actual reason.
You can simply reboot your modem by unplugging it from the power supply to shut down all its internal processes.
Wait for 30 seconds and plug it back in.
Rebooting the modem is recommended whenever you feel your connection has become sluggish, or you can do it regularly every month or so.
4. Change Your Cables
Wired connections are generally more reliable and stabler than wireless Wi-Fi connections.
However, the cable quality can also affect your internet speed.
If it’s old, frayed, or bent, change your cable to avoid drops in data transfer.
In addition, the cable’s length is a crucial factor in delivering fast data transfer.
The longer the cable, the lower the transfer rate.
Although different categories of Ethernet cables have a maximum recommended length, it’s better to keep them as short as possible.
By moving your computer closer to the modem, you can use a shorter cable to get a faster connection.
In addition, you can check your modem’s specs to get a higher category cable.
However, that’s only for devices that can be connected to your modem with a wired connection.
You must use a router or a router/modem combo for portable devices like smartphones.
In such cases, you should use other methods to strengthen your Wi-Fi signals.
For example, have fewer devices connected to the router simultaneously or place your devices closer to your router or in spots with the strongest signals.
5. Consider Software Solutions
Whether you use a wired or Wi-Fi connection to deliver the internet, the programs you use on your devices can affect your internet speed.
Some programs run in the background and eat up your bandwidth, slowing the internet for other uses.
Malware infection is another factor that can reduce your internet speed.
By closing unnecessary background processes and running a malware scan, you can minimize these issues and speed up your connection.