How to choose the right business broadband modem

business collaborating over large table being productive with reliable internet connection

Without the right modem you may be losing significant speeds on your broadband plan. Make sure you choose the right modem with our complete guide.

When your business depends on the internet, as most do these days, picking the right modem is important. The first step is to understand the terms, and what the differences between each model are.

Generally wireless modems are far preferable for businesses, as it lets you get internet for mobile devices, and means you don’t have to physically connect all the computers and everything else.

This guide explains what it all means, and how to pick the right modem for your businesses.

What businesses need to consider when picking a modem

The main factors that to consider are:

  • Business size and scalability: When choosing your broadband plan you will need to consider how many people currently access the internet and plans for expanding the business in the future. Depending on the growth of your business, you may want to consider a modem with higher capabilities to avoid paying extra for an upgraded modem later.
  • Band type and wireless range:
    The two Wi-Fi band broadcast frequencies are 2.4GHz and 5GHz.
    • 2.4GHz is the same band used by most other wireless devices, and as such is more crowded. The strength of 2.4GHz lies is providing coverage for farther distances, which can improve the signal strength for going through complex floor plans and thicker walls. If the wireless range of your internet is more important, then 2.4GHz will be more favourable.
    • 5GHz provides faster data rates at a shorter distance and may be more preferable for busy environments. If you prioritise speed over range then 5GHz frequencies will be advantageous over 2.4GHz frequencies.

These days modems that can only operate on the 2.4GHz band are generally the low-end, or out of date models. Choosing a modem with dual band capabilities creates networks that use both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. This creates less congestion and results in faster speeds since the two bands don't interfere with each other.

  • Wi-Fi speeds: Modem Wi-Fi speeds are an important factor to consider if you take your connection speed seriously. If your activities involve a lot of large file uploads or downloads, like a lot of high resolution images or videos, then the wireless modem standard is an important feature to consider. The speed of your Wi-Fi network is largely determined by the wireless standard. The current wireless standard is 802.11ac.
Wireless modem standards
Speed
802.11bup to 11 Mbps
802.11a and 802.11gup to 54 Mbps
802.11nup to 300 Mbps
802.11acup to 1 Gbps (1000 Mbps)
  • LAN ports. Lets you connect other devices via wired ethernet, which provides a stronger connection and reduces the load off your wireless connection.
  • Gigabit Ethernet ports. Are required to connect to the NBN.
  • Power over Ethernet: A feature of business modems that allows you to connect other devices including VoIP phones and digital security cameras through network cables, removing the need for excess power cables.
  • Floor plan: Depending on the size of your office you’ll want to consider whether you need a signal repeater of any kind. Whether it’s relatively open, or if it has a lot of thick internal walls, or other obstacles, can also affect connection. If you’re across multiple floors it’s relatively safe to assume that you’ll need some kind of signal repeater.
  • Security. Business modems usually include WPA and WPA2 encryption. To ensure that your network is safe, consider business-level encryption such as WPA2-Enterprise and creating a random wireless network password.
  • Remote access. Business modems can also provide a remote access feature which allows you to securely access your business files from home. To gain remote access you will need to set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). VoIP calls enable you to make telephone calls over an internet connection. VoIP plans can provide a cost efficient solution for your business calling needs, with unlimited allowances for national calls and discounted rates for mobile. To use VoIP you will need an eligible business broadband plan and a RJ45 cable connection in your modem router. It is important to note that each VoIP handset will require a RJ45 cable connection and the standard modem router includes 4 ports.

How modems work

In simple terms, the modem is how internet gets translated from the provider to a way you can use it with your devices. It’s essentially a signal converter. The type of modem affects things like your wireless range, the signal strength and speed, and how secure it is.

Your wireless modem is used to not only access the internet, but also to connect your office network.

How to compare modems

When you look at the technical specifications for a modem it’s hard to tell the difference when you don’t know what it means. Some of the features are relatively equivalent among standard models, while others are important to look at.

The main feature to look at in the specifications is the wireless capability. Depending on the model this will look something like “802n 2.4GHz”. This tells you what kind of standard it’s using, and what bands it uses.

The Wi-Fi type

These days you’ll generally find “n” and “ac” Wi-Fi types, or standards. These are generally an indication of how up to date it is, with “ac” being the higher speed ( such as “802ac 5GHz”). You may encounter other standards, such as “n” or “g”, but these are relatively out of date and generally shouldn’t be considered.

Ethernet ports

While the WiFi type is how your devices are connected to the internet, the ethernet is how you connect your computers to each other over an office network. Depending on your business needs you might want to look at the wide area network (WAN) and local area network (LAN) ports.

The numbers indicate the connection speed. Generally, the more the better.

  • LAN: Local area network connections. This is your local area network over a relatively short distance, such as within the office.
  • WAN: Wide area network ports, for connections over a much longer distance such as in different cities or countries.

USB ports

Having USB ports on your modem might be a useful extra, or a near-essential depending on your needs. These simply let you plug USB devices directly into the modem. For example, if you want a number of computers on the network to be able to access the data on an external hard drive, you can plug it in with the USB ports.

How can I improve the strength of my connection?

Depending on the size of your business, specifically how much office space you have and the layout, such as interior walls, some areas away from the wireless modem have might a poor signal, or none at all.

Generally, the two main ways to accommodate this are with signal boosters and network bridges.

  • Signal boosters: Simple and straightforward devices that can be bought and set up where needed. They essentially extend the wireless modem range. Note that the specifications of the signal booster need to match your modem.
  • Network bridges: A way of connecting two separate networks, creating a “bridge” between them. Bridging devices can also be purchased separately.

Alternatively, you can set up a second router as a repeater in order to boost the signal or bridge networks.

The right option for your situation depends on your office space and network. For example, if there’s only a corner of the office that doesn’t get internet, a signal booster might be preferable, whereas if you need to get two different floors on the same network, a network bridge might be preferable, with each floor having its own separate but connected network.

Other ways to boost signal strength

Before getting a new modem or router, or looking into expanding the network, it may be worth looking into other options.

  • Updating the router firmware. A programming update might be all that’s needed.
  • Change the router’s position. Moving it around until you find the best location is a good idea.
  • Replace the antenna. Adjusting or replacing antennae can help signal strength.

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