What are the 2 types of routers?

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Written By Dominic Howard

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Routers are an essential part of any computer network. They act as the traffic cops of the network, directing data packets from one computer or network to another. Routers operate at Layer 3 of the OSI model, also known as the Network layer. This means their main job is moving data packets around networks.

There are two main types of routers used in networking – wired routers and wireless routers. Both serve the same core function of routing network traffic, but they go about it in slightly different ways. Understanding the difference between these two router types is important for anyone working with computer networks.

Types of Router

Routers play a crucial role in connecting us to the internet and facilitating seamless communication. While most of us are familiar with the traditional Wi-Fi routers found in homes and offices, there’s another category of routers gaining prominence – 4G/5G routers. In this article, we’ll delve into the key features and applications of these two types of routers.

Wired Routers

A wired router is likely what many people think of when they hear the word “router.” Wired routers have ports on them to connect cables. This allows them to join together wired network segments.

The most common types of wired router ports are:

  • Ethernet – Used to connect to devices like computers, switches, and other Ethernet networks. Ethernet cables plug directly into these ports.
  • WAN – The Wide Area Network port is used to connect the router to an external network like an ISP or the internet.
  • LAN – Local Area Network ports allow the router to connect to other local networks, like additional switches.

On many routers, the LAN and WAN ports are interchangeable. The router is smart enough to detect which type of network is plugged into each port.

Wired routers function by using routing protocols and routing tables. These allow the router to inspect incoming network packets, and then forward them to the correct destination based on its routing table. The main routing protocols used are RIP, OSPF, BGP, and static routes.

Wired routers are the traditional routers used in homes, offices, and data centers. They require physical cables plugged into them to connect networks and devices. The benefit of wired routers is they tend to be very reliable and fast since they don’t have to deal with radio interference. The downside is the lack of flexibility due to the cables.

Wireless Routers

Wireless routers provide connectivity using radio signals instead of cables. They allow devices like laptops, tablets, and phones to connect to networks wirelessly using technologies like WiFi, LTE, and 5G.

Instead of Ethernet and WAN ports, wireless routers have antennas and radios. Data is transmitted through the air using radio waves, which gives devices the freedom to roam around within range of the router.

Some of the common wireless protocols used by wireless routers include:

  • WiFi – The most widely used wireless technology. Different versions exist, like 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, and now WiFi 6. Used for home, office, and public networks. Limited range of under 100 meters typically.
  • LTE – Long Term Evolution. This is a 4G cellular data technology used by cellular networks. Provides internet access over cellular frequencies. Used where cable internet isn’t available.
  • 5G – The latest generation of cellular data. 5G provides very fast speeds with lower latency than previous cellular tech. Its high bandwidth enables innovative applications.
  • Bluetooth – Used for short-range device networking. Ideal for gadgets, speakers, and headphones. Low power requirements.
  • Zigbee – A mesh network protocol popular for IoT and home automation devices. Enables small sensors to be deployed widely.

Wireless routers still function using the same routing principles and protocols as wired routers under the hood. But they allow for much greater flexibility and mobility than wired networks. Of course, the tradeoff is wireless throughput is shared and subject to interference and attenuation.

Key Differences

Here are some of the key differences between wired and wireless routers:

  • Connection method – Wired uses cables and ports, and wireless uses antennas and radio signals.
  • Speed – Wired routers can provide faster maximum speeds in optimal conditions. Wireless speeds depend on distance, interference, etc.
  • Reliability – Wired connections have fewer points of failure versus wireless links. But wireless is improving in reliability.
  • Mobility – Wireless routers offer connectivity to mobile devices or anywhere within range. Wired routers limit mobility.
  • Security – Wired networks are inherently more secure than wireless which can be intercepted. But wireless security is improving with new standards.
  • Complexity – Wireless networks often require more technical expertise to set up and configure correctly. Wired networks are plug-and-play.
  • Range – Wired routers have a farther maximum range since cables can run for kilometers. Wireless is limited to about 100-meter radii depending on conditions.
  • Cost – Wireless router hardware costs have come down greatly in recent years. However wireless networks still require more IT administration time and cost more overall to run versus wired.

As you can see, both wired and wireless routers serve the same core purpose of routing packets. But their connectivity methods differ substantially leading to distinct pros and cons for each. Many networks utilize both types of routers in what is called a hybrid network architecture. The wired backbone handles most of the heavy lifting traffic-wise. While the wireless edges provide flexibility for mobile users and devices to connect. Understanding the key differences helps determine the right router for specific networking needs.

Frequently Asked Question

1. What is a Wi-Fi router, and how does it work?

A Wi-Fi router is a device that connects multiple devices to the internet wirelessly using radio waves. It creates a local network and forwards data packets between devices and the internet.

2. How do I set up my Wi-Fi router?

Typically, you need to connect your router to your modem, log in to the router’s web interface, and configure settings like SSID and Wi-Fi password. Refer to your router’s manual for specific instructions.

3. What is the difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands?

The 2.4GHz band offers a longer range but slower speeds, while the 5GHz band provides faster speeds with a shorter range. Many modern routers support both bands for flexibility.

4. How can I improve my Wi-Fi signal at home?

You can improve the Wi-Fi signal by placing the router in a central location, reducing interference from other devices, and using Wi-Fi extenders or mesh systems for larger homes.

5. What is WPA33, and why is it important for router security?

WPA3 is the latest Wi-Fi security protocol, providing stronger encryption and protection against brute force attacks. It’s essential for securing your network from unauthorized access.

6. How often should I update my router’s firmware?

Regularly update your router’s firmware to ensure it has the latest security patches and features. Check for updates every few months or as recommended by the manufacturer.

7. Can I change my Wi-Fi password?

Yes, you can change your Wi-Fi password through your router’s web interface. It’s a good practice to change it periodically for security reasons.

8. What is the Quality of Service (QoS) on a router, and how does it work?

QoS allows you to prioritize certain devices or applications for better network performance. It ensures that essential tasks like video calls or gaming get sufficient bandwidth.

9. What should I do if I forget my router’s login credentials?

You may need to reset your router to its factory settings, which will erase all custom settings. Refer to your router’s manual for specific instructions on resetting.

10. What is a guest network, and should I set one up on my router?

A guest network provides separate access to your Wi-Fi for visitors, keeping your main network secure. It’s a good idea to set one up if your router supports it.


Routers come in both wired and wireless forms. Wired routers use physical cables and ports to make network connections. This provides very fast and reliable data routing to wired devices and networks. Wireless routers transmit network signals through the air using antennas and radio frequencies. This enables wireless mobility but is more complex to administer. Both router types utilize routing protocols and routing tables to make forwarding decisions and move data packets along to their destinations. Wired and wireless routers each have their own sets of advantages and tradeoffs. Most modern networks employ both types in a hybrid architecture that maximizes performance and flexibility. Knowing the key distinctions helps networking professionals select the best routers for their specific requirements.

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