A router is a device which joins computer networks or areas of computer networks, and allows data to pass between them. In the context of a router used within the home, the router allows connection of the owner’s home network (which can consist of a single PC or internet-capable device) to a network point of the internet, usually that provided by their own phone or broadband provider.
A router can be connected to the home network device(s) with cabling, or, as is more often the case these days, by wireless means. In this case, the router is equipped with a transmitter/receiver along with an aerial, and this allows it to communicate over a short range (typically 50 metres or so) with network devices equipped with similar transmitter/receivers. Of course, this permits more flexibility with regard to the location of the network devices, and allows the freedom to roam with tablets or laptops, away from the location of the router.
In many cases, the router will be provided to the homeowner by the broadband provider, as part of the package sold to the owner, and in these cases, there’s often very little, or no setup work to be done. Once connected to the phone line, the provider’s internet point recognises the router automatically, and once this is done, the owner can often connect directly to the router, and to the internet, merely by enabling wireless networking on their devices, and connecting to the network as it is found. Most often, the network ID as broadcast is printed on the back of the router itself, as is the access key, the password which restricts access to the household.
Although most routers will have a ‘control panel’ system allowing parameters to be altered by the owner, most broadband providers have recognised that the majority of their customers are unlikely to possess the appropriate technical knowledge, and they will have set it up with a generic set of parameters so that the average owner can connect with ease.