Understanding tech talk: Wireless router terms you need to know

Nov 29, 2018

Remember when you had to make the big decision between keeping the line clear for a phone call or checking your email? Thankfully, internet connectivity in most homes has far surpassed its origins, and you no longer have to wait to hear the dial tone to get online. Now the biggest concern is ensuring your wireless connection gets optimal speeds.

Here we break down several useful technical terms to know when selecting, installing and maintaining a wireless router at home. That streaming movie marathon you have planned for this weekend will thank you!

Modem v. Router

What’s the difference between a modem and a router?

Both devices are imperative for getting online, but they are not the same thing. A modem is the product that makes the actual connection to the internet supplied through your provider. A router works with your modem to deliver your internet connection to various devices, either by cable or wirelessly.

What type of routers are there?

The most common router types are wired and wireless. A wired router connects directly to your computer or other devices via a cable. This is not the best router type for connecting your mobile devices. For connecting wireless devices, you’ll want a wireless router.

What does wireless router mean?

A wireless router is a device that takes the internet connection received by the modem and transmits it wirelessly throughout your home so you can connect wireless-enabled devices such as computers, smartphones, smart TVs and tablets to your internet. Once your wireless router is set up, check out our tips for boosting your Wi-Fi signal.


In the simplest terms, this is the name you give to your home’s web network. Out of the box, most routers will have a pre-assigned SSID (service set identifier) comprised of numbers and letters or the brand’s name. Go ahead and change your network’s name to reflect your own personality or simply something that will be easy to share with guests. Have fun with picking a name!


As with most parts of your digital life, you’ll want to ensure the Wi-Fi network you’ve created is password protected to keep your system secure. If you don’t have a password and your connection suddenly gets slow, it may have something to do with neighbors leeching from that high-speed Wi-Fi. Without password protection, the data transmitted through your network runs the risk of interception by outside devices. Basically, you won’t have a secure connection and shouldn’t enter financial details or any other personal data on websites.


Software speaks to the programs running on a device, while firmware is software built into a gadget and crucial to keep it running efficiently. If there’s a firmware upgrade available to your router at the time of installation, be sure to download it and accept any future firmware pushes to keep everything in top shape.

LAN vs. WAN: What’s the difference?

LAN refers to a “local area network,” meaning all the computers work off the same router in a home or small office. When you think of all the devices in your home connected to your wireless router, that’s the LAN. The wide area network, or WAN, can be synonymous with the actual internet itself. WANs connect devices across large geographic locations, which is why the internet is considered the biggest example of a wide area network.

Remote access

This might be useful for the IT management of a company, but in a household setting, remote access to your router is usually unnecessary. Eliminate any risk of an outside entity interfering with your connection by disabling the router’s remote access at the time of installation. Most internet providers include a wireless router or offer one to rent with their internet plans.