Apple Wi-Fi Router vs. Comcast Modem with Built-In Wi-Fi

by | May 2, 2014

Apple Airport Wireless RouterI’m frequently asked if the built-in wireless of a Comcast or Century Link modem is comparable to an Apple Airport wireless router. One of mantras when dealing with technology is: “Apples to Apples and I can guarantee it will work; Apples to Oranges and I’m just not sure what to expect, especially over time.” For this reason, I always recommend using an Apple product like a Time Capsule, AirPort Express, or AirPort Extreme to create a wireless network in your home or office. They are easy to setup, and, if you want to extend your network, adding new hotspots strategically around the house is even easier using the built-in Airport Utility app.

But beyond a simple desire to use complimentary technology, the other main reason I recommend Apple Wi-Fi routers is their ability to provide “Dual Band” wireless frequencies. Wireless networks can run at two different frequencies: 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz. iPhone 4s can only connect to a 2.4 GHz frequency. iPhone 5 and above, iPad 2 and above, and Mac desktops can connect to 5.0 GHz frequency.

2.4 GHz has a wider range, meaning it can reach farther. It’s also more susceptible to interference due to only having 3 non-overlapping channels for transmission, which are crowded due to other interfering devices, including your neighbor’s Wi-Fi access point, microwave ovens, cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, and baby monitors. All that noise increases interference and degrades your network performance. 5.0 GHz has a more limited range, but a stronger signal within that distance. It has less interference with 23 non-overlapping channels, which makes it more stable for applications like video streaming and gaming.

Many routers handle this two-frequency issue one of two ways. First, they simply throttle down and only offer 2.4 GHz. This is the lowest common denominator approach, leaving your capable devices well below their potential. The second approach is to create two physically separate wireless networks, one at each frequency. This is the cause of the “Why can’t my iPad or iPhone see my Apple TV or Macbook Pro?” problem which can make AirPlay unusable. Netgear refers to this as Simultaneous Dual Band vs. Selectable Dual Band, touting that their Simultaneous Dual Band “provides the ultimate in flexibility and performance by providing two independent, dedicated networks,”except that you can’t see your Apple TV from your iPhone.

All Apple wireless routers seamlessly switch between 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz on one network. You only have a single network available, and your devices will connect to it with the optimal frequency at that time. This allows all devices to see each other on the network and access the best frequency for that device.

Now, back to the question about whether to use the built-in Wi-Fi that comes with your Comcast Cable modem or your Century Link DSL modem, or to spend the extra money and use an Apple wireless router. It took a bit of searching but I finally found a page on the Comcast website that addresses this issue. They offer two routers referred to as “the Wireless Gateway 1 (model numbers TG852G, TG862G, SMCD3GNV and TC8305C) and the Wireless Gateway 2 (model number DPC3939).” Gateway 1 is 2.4 GHz only, and Gateway 2 is Dual-Band and switches between 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz automatically.

Question: Have you ever had a Comcast tech ask you if you had a preference?
Leave a comment and let me know if your existing Comcast modem is Dual Band or not!

I’ve installed dozens of new Comcast routers since they doubled their bandwidth last year, and even I didn’t know this distinction until recently. With Apple, you know what the device is capable of and what to expect from it.

Apple AirPort ExtremeHere are a few more tips if you have Comcast Internet service. First, if you do have an Apple Time Capsule or AirPort Extreme providing your wireless network, do you also have a Comcast Wi-Fi modem? If so, you can trade it in for a plain Comcast modem, and save yourself a few dollars every month. If you don’t, and are relying on your Comcast as your home wireless network, how long have you had your Comcast service? If it’s been more than a few years, you can exchange that old, outdated Comcast modem for a new one at no charge! All you have to do is ask.

For more information about wireless technology, including types of interference such as microwave ovens and metal walls, plus Netgear’s approach to Dual Band wireless networks, please refer to the articles below. If you decide to do some web research,  (I always recommend you do your due diligence), please note the date of the articles. There’s a ton of information addressing this issue, but the majority of the articles are from 2008-ish, when the technology first hit the market and was big news, and are now outdated. Happy surfing!

What is Dual Band Wireless Networking? –
iOS and OS X: Recommended Settings For Wi-Fi Routers and Access Points –
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth: Potential Sources of Wireless Interference –
Why Choose Simultaneous Dual Band? –
The Different Wireless Gateways for Your Home Network –

About Jamie Pollock

Jamie has worked as an independent business and tech consultant for many years, assisting large companies and small businesses in developing a wide variety of strategies and solutions. His past clients include Jantzen, Symantec and Intel, just to name a few. With an innate ability to explain complex topics, expertise in all things iPad and iPhone, and an infectious sense of humor, Jamie is a master at helping people become confident in everyday technologies.



  1. facebook

    I have Airport express. But I did not use any other apple wifi Router that is really very good product and speed is best. I have to use any other apple product. Still, I didn’t use Comcast modem. I knew details from this post about apple wifi router and Comcast modem.

  2. Max Howells

    I just read the above article. It’s very unique and to the point. But I must say, both apple wifi router and Comcast built wifi has its unique features. Both come with a very strong internet connection and security.

  3. Netgear Router Password Issues

    Both devices have some pros and cons. But both individually is great for using. I was already used both of this routers and from my personal point of view, I can say this is really a great thing to see. Overall it’s really a well-penned article but you don’t need to compare two best things with each other.

  4. belkin router setup

    Apple Wi-Fi Router is one of the best routers, it is easy to set up and it provides the best internet connection. I m also using this. it’s really good.

  5. Adam

    I have an Apple Airport Extreme connected to a Cisco Dual WAN RV042 which in turn is connected to a Comcast/Xfinity Modem and a Century Link Modem (all LAN cables). The issue is that the Airport Extreme was working and serving DHCP to all devices (IPV4 and6) with the Cisco serving DHCP and the Xfinity X1 Platform modem in bridge mode.

    Recently the Appe Extreme (AE) stopped being able to connect to the Internet (still serving DHCP) still on in all frequencies. I then configure the AE into bridge mode and still the same issue. OK I then took the Xfinity modem out of bridge mode so I could use the built in wifi (2.4/5.0) and this works…however at slower speeds and with a lesser range.

    How do I enable the Cisco to do its job (dual WAN and serve IP both static and DHCP, which works fine on the wired LAN, so presumably not a Cisco issue) in order to pass connectivity to the Xfinity modem and take advantage of the superior performance of the Apple Extreme?

    Thanks in advance

    • Jamie Pollock

      I apologize it has taken me some time to reply to this comment. Honestly, I am not a Networking guy,so it is a little over my head. My only comment / question would be that you probably do not want two devices both serving up DHCP. With that in mind, can you set both the Xfinity modem and the Airport Extreme to bridge mode and allow the Cisco to do all the IP work. If the AE is putting out the WiFi network, then you are taking advantage of it’s features not matter where the IPs are being served from. Let me know if this helps or if you have found a solution. I would be interested in hearing more.


  6. randy

    Hi Jamie, I have Comcast and currently use their provided modem with an Airport Extreme, I believe its dual band. I have Blast which delivers 50MB. I recently switched to the Comcast voice/internet service to get a lower price and they sent me the single band wireless gateway you mentioned. They told me this would increase the speed to 100MB.

    I take it that if I choose to install this huge thing, I will have to use its Wifi and not the Apple device, is this correct? What would you do in my case? We have various mac desktops and laptops on the network as well as iphone 5S and the latest ipad air II. Thanks, Randy

    • Jamie Pollock

      Hi Randy,
      You can install this new Comcast modem and still use your own Airport Extreme. You can disable the built-in WiFi on the Comcast modem or leave it active and just have two WiFi networks available. I always recommend using the Apple product.

      • randy

        I will try that, thanks Jamie!

  7. Jack Wakshlag

    What is your current recommendation for cable modem I can purchase to use with Apple router?

    • Jamie Pollock

      Hi Jack,

      I do not have a specific recommendation for cable modems. Anything Comcast endorses is a good option. My main concern is not the cable modem but the built in wifi router. I have still not witnessed a Comcast cable modem that has built in Wifi that actually auto-switches between 2.4 and 5 GHz. They all seem to provide two physically separate networks, one for 2.4 and another for 5.


  8. Craig Thomas

    Hi Jamie,
    I also switched out the new Comcast dual-band wireless router with an Airport Extreme I had been using before. A much better system, especially if you live in the Mac universe! A quick question though. The new Comcast x1 service has the capability of streaming live TV to other devices ‘in network’. Seems I lost this service when I switched to the Airport. Have you come across a way of getting this service to work with the Airport?

    • Jamie Pollock

      Hi Craig,

      I do not have the X1 service so I have not had an opportunity to test how it works. You can always have both WIFi networks functioning so your Apple products connect to the Airport but you can switch them to connect to the Comcast Wifi network when you want to do the “in network” streaming. Switching back and forth is probably your only option.


  9. Earl McAllister

    Im a apple product user we have 2 Apple iPhone 5S And 1 ipad2 also . Wondering if the AirPort Extreme can be used on these products. My main concern I have Verizon DSL which sucks for streaming . I am considering on Comcast Internet . If I do and spend the money on a router and wifi combined ( airport extreme or time capsule ) will my Apple TV and comcast . Please help me make this decision. Thanks in Advance.


    • Jamie Pollock

      Hi Earl,

      The Airport Extreme and Time Capsule are made to work with your iPhone 5Ss and you iPad 2, so absolutely. DSL is notoriously slow. I prefer Comcast, but as my article states, I prefer to use the Comcast cable modem provided by Comcast in combination with an Apple Wifi Router! Just FYI, my current Comcast connection is providing 120 Mbps of download speed. Happy surfing!


  10. Ken

    Thank you for breaking down the differences between the 2.4 and 5.0 bands. I just had Comcast installed 2 days ago and didn’t know anything about the dual bands. I am paying for at least 50 mbps Internet speeds, but every time I ran a speed test my results would be almost half. As you can imagine I was feeling like I had been ripped off. So I called customer service and no was able to resolve my issue. They had me changing the router channels and changing the router’s physical location away from any type interferences. Lastly, they were going to send a tech out. Nothing worked. I came across your article and realized that I had a dual band modem/router from Comcast (No one I spoke with from Comcast even mentioned it). Anyway, I connected to the 5.0 band like your article suggested and immediately ran a speed test. Now I am getting, on average, about 57.75 mbps. It was so easy and simple compared to what customer service had me doing. So I changed all my devices to the 5.0 band (At least the ones that could find the 5.0 band) and my !nternet speeds and experience has been wonderful.

  11. Julia

    I am an enthusiastic subscriber – love the information. Sometimes it takes me a while to read it with all the newsletters flying into my inbox, but just want to give you a hats off for awesome info 🙂

    This article intrigued me for a number of reasons. I have been limping buy with my old 500 GB time capsule and and updated Apple products (13″ Macbook Pro Retina 2013 running latest Yosemite; iPad Air Retina 1st gen.; iPad Mini Retina; and 2 iPhone 5s. My service is CenturyLInk DSL and I lease a modem from them. They have dedicated my DSL service with a special jack and line going straight to the modem, which I have tied into the time capsule via ethernet cable.

    The speed is not as fast as it should be, but more importantly, the Time Capsule no longer functions as anything than a Wi-Fi router, and the iPhones cannot get a Wi-Fi connection because the password required is too long (and I have no idea how to change it.) The Printer (HP Envy 110) seems Finally to work well and consistently from a remote location for both the MacBook Pro and the ISO devices, which is a pleasure.

    While I realize it is off topic by 40% (give or take) could you give me any suggestions about the best way to go. I plan on upgrading the phone/s soon, so that is not critical. But, as a writer, and family historian, I feel pretty vulnerable without the time capsule’s back-up ability. I’ve been looking at other, more cost effective products, which have the ability to use the App feature, but as an Apple enthusiast, I have the feeling I will somehow regret it 🙂

    I have read (and understand) the dual capacity of the time capsule (2.4/5.0) and presume that the 500 GB model is too old to cover that ground? If that is so, it would explain some of the speed issues I am having.

    Thank you 🙂
    Vancouver WA

    • Jamie Pollock

      Hi Julie,
      It does sound like your Time Capsule is showing it’s age. You can go to Apple Support and click the Browse By Product link to input your serial number and get full technical specs on the hardware. The main reason to upgrade to a newer Time Capsule would be to get the newer wireless technologies which have progressed from 802.11 a/b/c/g/n and now we looking at the new 802.11 ac which the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus can utilize. But your DSL is probably your worst bottleneck. Most DSL connections I have seem only get around 7 to 15 Mbps in download speed unless you pay a much higher rate for more. My current Comcast connection is providing 100 to 120 Mbps. You can use the Comcast Speedtest Tool to check your current download speeds. Let me know if you need more help!

  12. Kristin

    I have the Gateway 1. My Internet dropped down to .28mbps. Called Comcast today. After a hour on the phone, they said they are sending me a Gateway 2 dual band. Comcast said a 5-day history of my speeds shows the drops. They said there’s no additional charge for the Gateway 2 dual band.

  13. Howie

    Thank you so much for this article. I just got off the phone with Comcast and their dual-band routers are only available through the X1 service that they are rolling out and the modem/routers need to be sent from their warehouse and cannot be picked up at a store location. I am moving in a couple months so therefore, I am just going to wait to either make that upgrade or use a regular modem and purchase the AE, instead. It’s pretty ridiculous that they did not offer any option of Dual-band or not from the jump. Maybe, the dual band wasn’t out yet, but this was about 8 months ago that I set up service here so I would think they would have it. Now, the question will be how much more they try and charge me for the X1 package and the dual-band router. Again, thanks for providing this information and to anyone thinking about upgrading to the dual-band, make sure you actually call Comcast, as I am told they cannot be simply exchanged at store locations.

  14. mie

    Thank you! I have been searching the net and everything is outdated. We just got Comcast (Nov 2014), after having Clear for years. The Clear router has no problem finding the airplay on the network. The new Comcast router can’t seem to find it. Hopefully, now having your tips, we will come back and with the solution.

    • mie

      Correction: not Comcast, Century Link (DSL / phone, not cable).

  15. Diane

    Thank you, Jamie! Comcast actually had to send a letter saying it’s time to update your modem (oops), and our new modem with router arrived this week. Before installing I Googled the question, since we have a Time Capsule, and thankfully yours was the first article I read. I’ve just repacked my new single band router and will be returning it to Comcast today to exchange for a new modem. You saved much hair-pulling, I appreciate it!

  16. WILL

    We just recently had an upgrade to our xfinity package to include phone. Since we received the new duel band modem it constantly drops all devices off the 2.4 throughout the day. Up to hours at a time. It will continue to broadcast the SSID, but no device can connect to 2.4. All devices on 5, stayed connected. We are on our third modem over the past month and same results on all. It is 8:30am and all my Apple and non- Apple devices are disconnected.

    I have turned off wireless phone thinking interference, but that did not make a difference. Maybe I need to call in Ghost Busters!

  17. Winterlyn

    Comcast. Posted new rates as of August 1, 2014. The service analyst that I have talked with is not providing any modem or router for free either one would cost eight dollars per month and I’m existing customer.
    I do appreciate your recommendation of models for routers and modems so that I can move forward and get my Apple products connected thanks so much

  18. Aaron

    I just moved and Comcast installed the DPC3939. If it switches from 2.4 to 5 automatically, why do I have two options to connect when adding wirelessly? It has SSID 1 (HOME-####-2.4)and SSID 2 HOME-####-5). Same password for both. Should I connect all wireless devices to both, some to each, or all to one of them?

    • WILL

      Aaron you will see any SSID that your computer is in the range of picking up. If I was you, I would establish a connection with both the 2.4 and 5. You will need to enter the password for both. After that the modem will connect to what it considers the best connection.


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