There’s a common misconception that broadband routers play a highly specialised role in sending and receiving data.
That’s certainly true in terms of turning data streams into wireless signals, which are then distributed around the home.
However, the real heroes of online connectivity are network servers.
These vast hard drives store enormous amounts of information, ready to be piped to hundreds or thousands of end users at any given moment.
Servers are typically stored in large climate-controlled warehouses, under military-grade security.
By comparison, a router has an easy role to play once data arrives in your home…
Most people retain the broadband router supplied by their internet service provider, assuming only this device will be suitable for their connection.
In the case of Virgin Media, that’s true, since data is piped down a unique twin-core fibre cable.
But any service using an Openreach phone socket ought to be compatible with most routers, simply by plugging a new device into the phone socket and switching it on.
ISP routers are cheap, mass-produced items whose brand identity extends as far as stickers.
It doesn’t take much research to discover some of the UK’s broadband providers use identical hardware, in varying colour schemes.
As long as a new router is compatible with your type of internet connection (e.g. full fibre broadband), it should work as well as any other domestic router.
Making the (up)grade
There are several reasons why replacing a router might be an advisable course of action:
- The original router breaks or develops a fault. Even if your ISP agrees to replace it, they might want it returning for testing. This may leave you offline temporarily.
- The device has limited range, and can’t reach every corner of the home and garden. Third-party routers often have external aerials, or signal-boosting mesh extenders.
- The router is a few years old, lacking new technology like the latest 802.11ac data streaming protocols.
- Generic hardware tends to be plasticky and unappealing to look at, whereas some third-party equipment looks far more stylish when positioned centrally in the home.
How to replace a broadband router
Having made a decision to upgrade your hardware, changeover is usually a straightforward process.
Some routers automatically call up connection wizards on a hardwired computer when they’re wired up for the first time.
Others require slightly more involvement, so take a few moments to ready any supplied instructions prior to commencing installation.
These are the main steps you’ll need to follow:
- Disconnect the existing router, and plug the new one into the telephone socket using a microfilter. It should be fine to reuse the one your ISP originally supplied.
- Connect a computer using an Ethernet cable. A hardwired connection is always important when setting up a new internet connection. WiFi can come later.
- Access the router settings on the computer. This will be detailed in the accompanying instructions, but usually involves typing 192.168.0.1 (or 2.1) into a web browser.
- Enter the username and password listed on the router body, or stuck onto the instruction booklet.
- Enter any requested information, like broadband account numbers and passwords.
- Ensure WPA2 encryption is specified, and select a complex password.
There’s no handover procedure to worry about – the router should now be working normally.
WiFi devices must be updated with new access details, and it’s good practice to give regular visitors login credentials as well, to optimise their 4G data allowances.