What is a DSL modem?

Answer: A DSL modem lets your computer connect to the Internet at higher speeds than were ever possible on dial-up.


What is a modem?

The term modem refers to devices that let your computer connect to the Internet through fiber, cable, or a phone line. Back in the days of dial-up Internet connections, modems were typically located inside the computer. For most current Internet users, the screech of the 56k modem is a thing of the past. But just because that technology is gone doesn’t mean modems went away completely.


What is a DSL broadband modem?

Today there are a number of technologies you can use to get online, and because each of these technologies uses a different kind of modem, the devices now connect to your computer rather than come inside it. A DSL modem is a kind of modem that lets users connect to the Internet using a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) connection. Though DSL is orders of magnitude faster than dial-up service, it’s actually one of the slower technologies currently available for online access. In fairness, that’s largely because other technologies are so fast they represent more speed than some users need. A typical real-world DSL speed is 6 Mbps, and that provides enough speed and bandwidth for a single user to engage in most online activities, including watching high-definition streaming video.

Like dial-up modems, DSL modems connect to the Internet through your home’s telephone line. Unlike dial-up, though, it uses a different portion of the phone line signal than the phone itself, so you can use it and the phone at the same time. For that reason, there’s never any reason to disconnect your computer from the Internet, so you don’t have to wait to log on every time you use it.


What is a DSL modem router?

A DSL modem router is a two-in-one device that combines a DSL modem with a router, which is a device that helps direct traffic around your home network. For instance, a router lets a family with multiple computers connect each one to the Internet at the same time, but also share files with each other without going online. Some DSL modem router combos also allow users to connect to the network wirelessly, which is great for laptops and tablets.

Check out our expert’s top recommended modem-router combos


Different kinds of DSL modems

If you’re shopping for a DSL modem, you’ll see terms like ADSL2+ and VDSL. Over time, DSL standards evolved to support higher speeds. For instance, ADSL has a theoretical top speed of 7 Mbps, and VDSL has a theoretical top speed of 52 Mbps. Real-world speeds are typically much lower than that last figure, but before you sign up for service with a DSL provider, you should definitely ask what kind of speed is possible.

Some modems can support multiple DSL standards. If you ever find yourself unsure of what kind of DSL modem you need, just ask your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Many DSL providers offer a list of approved modems to make finding the right one easier, and some providers sell DSL modems directly, so you know you’re getting what you need.

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