Let’s get things out of the way here. A modem is a base for converting data into signals to and from telephone lines, cable, fiber or satellite. It is here that houses the connection between the ISP server and the device linked to it. What used to be an analog-to-digital conversion that had to rely on telephone connections has now vastly improved, making signal transfers much simpler and faster than ever before. At some point in the future, modems wouldn’t be physical items anymore but rather something that blends in with the clouds.
In other words, without the modem, you wouldn’t have the internet at home or anywhere that Wi-Fi is available.
How a Modem Came to Be
It all started back in the 1980s when it was solely used by the media and the US Defense System. Transferring information was a breeze for these two groups as they had all the information they need about anything and anyone from around the world through a computer.
When the World Wide Web was established in the 90s, that was when compact modems came into existence. Enter the dial-up age – where everyone had to suffer through grueling minutes of odd sounds emitting from the phone to the computer to establish a link through the modem. It was definitely a slow start for the internet back then and was a nightmare when you were using the internet and then someone suddenly used the telephone to call someone – that always disconnects you from the internet.
But thanks to the creation of broadband, everyone kissed the loud and slow dial-up connection goodbye and hello to proper internet. You’d be lucky enough if you had a 1 Mbps internet speed during the early 2000s.
And now that internet keeps on growing, connections and modems have improved too; introducing more stable internet connections, sturdier wiring and stronger signals to link to the ISP server within seconds. It’s only a matter of time until modems and wires become smaller and more convenient while maintaining lightning fast internet speeds.
ISPs provide many different internet connections for your home or business, giving you a ton of options based on your preferences.
But What About Smart Phones and Satellites?
Since the establishment of 3G and 4G, internet on the go became possible without having to rely on a stationary modem that provides Wi-Fi. Instead, the modem is now built-in through the phone. So yes, phones can be used as modems too. So much so that you can use them to provide internet connection to your laptop or computer. This is what we call a mobile hotspot – where you can use the phone as your internet provider via USB.
Same goes with satellite internet. You don’t need a modem at home because your modem is the satellite itself, transmitting data from the ISP (read more about satellite internet here).
5G and the Future of Modems
Since 5G is making its public appearance soon, we could say that modems could become more and more convenient as time goes by. At some point, modems might turn into cloud devices too, making it accessible to anything that relies on streaming, communications and activations. Bikes and cars will have an autopilot feature, video chatting someone online can be as clear as 4K, downloading a 4-hour movie or 100 Gb game will only take seconds, and online businesses will have more access and easier conversations with remote employees all over the world.
But at the end of the day, the modem is why internet for everyone exists. What started off as a large cabinet 30 years ago is now as small as a biscuit that you can carry around anywhere so you can keep on browsing and surf online. If 5G finally makes way to cloud connections, that means 10 years from now, we’re looking at cloud modems – no more cables, no more physical storage, no more reliance on signals.