Ask LH: Should I Buy My Own Router Or Use One From My ISP?

Hi Lifehacker, I’ve just finished building a new house which has Cat5e cabling and am looking at my modem and router options. It seems that the best speed I can get is ADSL2+ so the download and upload capabilities of the modem aren’t going to be critical; the ability for the router to transfer traffic around the home network at maximum speed is going to matter more. However, most of the hardware offered by ISPs doesn’t offer gigabit ports; 100/10 is as good as it gets.

My question is this: should I accept the modem provided by the ISP and then add in a switch, or should I source a separate modem/router myself? Any suggestions or recommendations? Thanks, Need Nifty Networking

Router picture from Shutterstock

Dear NNN,

This is definitely a question where we’d love to hear readers chime in: experiences with hardware and ISPs vary a lot. In your situation, the best approach is probably going to be to take on whatever modem/router is supplied as standard by your ISP, then add your own gear to share it around the house. This is why:

  • Using “standard” equipment makes troubleshooting easier if there are any issues. If you’re using a “non-supported” modem, you’ll spend a lot more time trying to convince phone support that your own gear isn’t the cause of the problem. That will doubly be the case if you’re also routing data from that device directly to multiple systems through your in-home cabling
  • Adding your own gear gives you more flexibility for the cabled portion of your network: most ISPs these days are focused on Wi-Fi performance more than connectivity.

Incidentally, we’d recommend paying the outright buy price for the modem rather than taking it “free” but signing up for a 24-month contract — that restricts your ability to change provider down the track.

The case for buying a single device and using it is that you can be sure of maximum speed when transmitting online content to your cabled network — but since your ADSL2+ connection won’t remotely approach gigabit speeds, that doesn’t seem important in this instance.

That’s our take, but again, we’d love to hear how other readers have tackled this. Tell us in the comments.


Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.

At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


15 responses to “Ask LH: Should I Buy My Own Router Or Use One From My ISP?”