This is what you need to know before buying a router

Most people think of their modem as that “little grey box” that helps you get onto the internet.

With so many available options and South Africa’s continuous shift to faster FTTH, VDSL and ADSL speeds, we looked at what you first need to consider when buying a new router:

Note this is only a guideline and should not be taken as wholly applicable to your specific networking setup.


Security

Making sure your device is secure is vitally important – not only so that nobody can gain malicious access to your private files, but also so your neighbour doesn’t “accidentally” burn through your cap.

Here is a brief run-through of the most popular encryption methods and what they mean:

  • WEP – At one time one of the most widely used security algorithm, but also the most vulnerable. Try and steer clear at all costs.
  • WPA – A direct response to the vulnerability of WEP, it too was once widely used but has officially been superseded by WPA2 as of 2006.
  • WPA2 – The most recent security algorithm. It is not invulnerable to attack, but is widely considered to be one of the safest.
  • AES, PSK, TKIP – PSK (Pre-shared Key) and TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) refer to the specific key system used to encrypt your WPA connections. These have both been superseded by AES (Advanced Encryption Standard).

In short, make sure your router supports at least WPA2 with AES.


Compatibility

It is important to first research whether your router supports the 802.11G or 802.11N standards.

Some devices (especially older ones) may have a greatly reduced transfer speed when connected to an unsupported standard, or otherwise refuse to work outright.

Conversely, if you have a newer device that supports 802.11ac, you won’t get the benefits of the improved standard if your routers doesn’t support it too.

This compatibility also extends to the encryption being used, as some devices do not support specific encryption types.


Frequency Bands

While South African internet speeds are constantly improving, very few will surpass the 600 Mbps theoretical limit provided by most modern routers.

However, you should consider the frequency band being used (5GHz vs 2.4GHZ), not only for compatibility reasons (which will affect speed), but because 5GHz emits a weaker signal across longer distances.

While 5GHz doesn’t create as big a hotspot, or offer as good penetration through walls, it is a much larger band with much fewer devices and routers operating in it currently, which usually means less noise/interference.

If you have devices that support 5GHz such as newer, more expensive phones and laptops, you might want to consider getting a router that supports 2.4GHz and 5GHz.


Price

Routers can be a somewhat unexpected cost for consumers who just want to get their internet up and running.

While the temptation to jump at the cheapest option may be high, rather evaluate your options and consider factors like warranty and support, build quality, and the above-mentioned factors before making a purchase.

Several ISPs also offer a free router with installation upon purchase of a new FTTH or ADSL contract, or even when upgrading to a faster line.

The convenience of having this free router installed for you (and after running through the above “checklist”) cannot be overlooked, especially for the less tech-savvy consumer.

You can check out some of our recommendations below:

Router Price
TP-Link ADSL2+ Ethernet Modem Router TD-8817
 R299
TP-LINK TD-W8960N  R581
ASUS DSL-N17U  R1,604
Asus Tri-Band Wireless-AC3200 Gigabit Router  R4,999

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This is what you need to know before buying a router

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