A cable router performs several important functions in the management of high-speed cable Internet connections. The best cable routers can handle advanced networking protocols, manage multiple wireless devices and communicate or route traffic between the network and the modem required by the Internet service provider (ISP). Additional features that make a router stand out are security, ease of setup and backward compatibility.
Cable Internet often provides the fastest access speeds, using the advanced technologies that cable companies use to deliver TV, telephone and broadband Internet services. Each cable Internet service provider uses a cable modem that connects the customer’s home or business to its service. The cable router that one uses must be compatible with the ISP’s cable modem for it to route the signal to wired and wireless devices. Under most circumstances, the ISP tells a customer which router brands and models are compatible with the modem.
The protocols for high-speed cable modems have advanced significantly since their creation, and they continue to advance. To avoid obsolescence in 2011, a cable router should at least be capable of using wireless networking 802.11n standards. This protocol can advance at anytime, though, so one should also consider whether the router has upgrade potential for new standards.
A cable router with backward compatibility with older networking standards such as 802.11a through 802.11g makes it simpler to manage various devices on high-speed cable Internet. These routers efficiently translate and communicate with printers and computers that must use older operating systems to integrate all network devices. A cable router that has backward compatibility will be able to communicate with diverse operating systems and electronics such as TVs and gaming systems.
A cable router does not have to be a stand-alone device; it can be integrated with the broadband modem. Whether it is separate or integrated, better quality cable routers provide additional security for a home or business network. Ideally, the router should have a firewall and data encryption options.
The technology that lets one plug in a cable router and access the Internet from a networked connection has many potential glitches that can result in down time. Cable Internet service providers often do not include in-home setup in a package price. The best routers have minimal steps and easy connections that the average person can install. This is extremely important, because power outages or new equipment purchases can make troubleshooting the cable router a necessity.