To connect to the NBN you’ll need a modem. Most modems are given by a telco as part of your NBN plan, but with some types of networks (fibre-to-the-node and fibre-to-the-building) you don’t have to use that modem. You may choose to buy your own modem from an electronics shop.
Modems have different features and ways that they work. Our modem study shows how different models can affect your NBN use.
Your devices can be connected to your modem either by a cable (for example, to your smart TV) or, more commonly, by a Wi-Fi connection (to your smartphone, tablet or laptop).
Our study found that good Wi-Fi helps you get fast speeds in your home. Using our findings on Wi-Fi, we’ve made some tips to help you work out the features you need in a modem—or if you already have one, what you can do to get it working at its best.
What features do I need?
To help decide what modem features will get you the best connection to the NBN, you need to think about:
- your internet use
- your home set-up
- how many people/devices will use it
- how tech-savvy you are.
Your internet use
If you do a lot of downloading, gaming and streaming, there are modem features that work better.
Check that the modem is using the latest Wi-Fi standards (either 802.11ac or 802.11ax). These can handle high data speeds and many devices.
Also check the Wi-Fi frequency your modem uses. Some modems only use the 2.4 GHz band, while others use either the 2.4 GHz band or 5 GHz band. A modem using the 5 GHz band gets less interference, is faster and its signal can reach more areas of your home.
If you get a ‘dual band’ or ‘tri-band’ modem, it can connect using both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands at the same time, which helps spread the load.
If you only use the internet for checking emails and light web browsing, it’s unlikely you’ll need a modem with lots of features.
Your home set-up
All homes are different. If you have a two-storey home, internal brick walls or a big space, it can really affect how well your Wi-Fi modem works. If you live in an apartment, there can be interference from nearby Wi-Fi networks.
In these cases, check your modem is using the latest Wi-Fi standards and uses the 5 GHz band.
How many people/devices will use it
If you are going to have lots of people sharing the one modem, check that it is using the latest Wi-Fi standards and uses the 5 GHz band. Consider a ‘dual band’ or ‘tri-band’ modem—they are better suited to handle heavy use.
How tech-savvy you are
If you’re uncomfortable with technology, get a modem with ‘plug and play’ set-up, automatic channel selection and automatic firmware updates.
Get your modem working at its best
To help you make the most of your modem, you should find the best spot for it, set it up right and correctly connect your devices to it.
Find the right spot
Modems work best away from brick walls, windows, furniture and other electronic devices that can cause interference (microwaves, cordless phones, baby monitors, security alarms and remote-controlled garage doors).
Ideally, you should put your modem in the middle of the area you want Wi-Fi coverage. It should also be close to your smart TV if you want to connect it via a cable.
Keep your modem up off the floor to help boost its signal, and don’t put it in a cupboard, behind your smart TV or in the garage.
Wi-Fi analyser apps can help you choose the best place for your modem. Also, if your telephone sockets aren’t in the right spots, Wi-Fi extenders can be placed around your home to boost your modem's signal coverage.
Set your modem up properly
If you’re ok with technology, and your modem’s auto channel selection isn’t giving you the best speeds, you can try a channel that isn’t being used by nearby Wi-Fi devices. Check your modem’s user manual or configuration settings to learn how to change the frequency band or channel.
With the help of a Wi-Fi analyser app, changing the direction of your modem’s antennas can also help the signal range.
Correctly connect your devices
When using portable devices like smartphones, laptops and tablets, try to have a direct line of sight to the modem.
You can plug devices that use lots of data—such as desktop computers, smart TVs and gaming consoles—straight into the modem. They’ll usually perform much better when connected via cable.
If you need any help with your modem or internet connection, contact your telco.