Renting or buying a router – what’s worthwhile?

router freedom has been in effect for about a year: internet providers are no longer allowed to prescribe forced routers for their customers, but pitfalls still lurk. We explain for whom a rental device is better and for whom it pays to have your own router.

Router rent or buy?

Bright red writing, capital letters and also highlighted: the warning of the internet provider is not to be overlooked. Those who choose to use their own router have no service and support. The telecommunications company in question also states: "IMPORTANT NOTICE: the use of third-party devices can lead to considerable restrictions on your selected connection! (…) services and support are not available." such a drastic description is likely to make some consumers wary of using their own router. Who wants a DSL or cable connection that does not work??

So there’s not much to be said for renting a router from a provider that is "optimally tuned" to the provider’s network? No, is the short answer. in fact, it tends to be the other way around: while you can use all the functions of your own router, internet providers can restrict these functions in the case of rented routers. However, in addition to the possible functional limitations, there are arguments in favor of a rental router: in some cases, the free provision and thus the price, as well as the aforementioned support and easier commissioning. our guide highlights these pros and cons, shows you the possible pitfalls of both options, calculates which of the two options is more favorable for you, and finally gives clear recommendations.

The end of the "router compulsion": the agony of choice

Such warnings against using your own router are misleading. Because of courseürlich funktioniert der Internetanschluss auch mit ein „Fremdgerät“

The requirement to be able to use one’s own router on the Internet connection has only existed in Germany for one year. Since the 1. August 2016 providers are no longer allowed to deny their customers the connection and operation of their own "telecommunication terminal equipment". Although network operators and Internet providers can continue to provide consumers with routers, they are no longer allowed to prescribe their connection and use. "you must provide the subscriber with the necessary access data and information for the connection of telecommunications terminal equipment and the use of telecommunications services in text form, unsolicited and free of charge upon conclusion of the contract," according to the law.

In specialist circles, this is usually referred to as "router freedom" or "end of router compulsion", but strictly speaking, the expressions are not correct. Formally, it’s not about the router function, but about the modem integrated in the device. The component that ultimately establishes the Internet connection via the DSL, cable or fiber optic connection. Pure modems without additional functions for home network, firewall, WLAN, telephony and more are, however, hardly common: they are used, if at all, mainly for cable connections. We therefore use the router term broadly here, as is generally the case.

With the end of the router obligation, the customer also has the agony of choice at the same time. This applies to the consideration of renting or buying the router. However, this also applies to the model, both when renting and buying.

Free choice of router applies to DSL, fiber-optic and cable connections

If you’re looking for a new Internet connection or just want to switch providers for lower prices, you’ll inevitably come up against the hardware question. regardless of the type of connection you choose. The PC-WELT rate guide is a great help here, not only taking into account individual wishes such as bandwidth, runtime, additional options, current discounts and much more, but also supporting you with the router offer.

as soon as you click on the small plus sign in front of "more settings" on the start page, you will see, among other things, the two options "only offers with free hardware" and "only offers with WLAN hardware" (which is not necessarily free). Select the options you want and click "update table" on the right after each change for the new filters to take effect. In this way, you can quickly get an overview of the tariffs and the providers as well as the respective "tariff details" and also the routers offered by the provider.

Most providers offer at least one free hardware option. Often, however, it is a functionally stripped-down device that cannot really be used with a computer and offers neither WLAN nor DECT for the cordless phone.

Better models – often Fritzbox models from AVM – are then only available for a monthly surcharge. In addition, our comparative calculator clearly indicates rental fees that will not be incurred until later and explicitly names the hardware with the model designation. For example, "1&1 WLAN router" can be used to describe almost anything, while "fritzbox 7412" is a clear-cut example.

With the exact model designation you can then not only look at the manufacturer (AVM provides a comparative device overview) the specifications and exact functions. Price search engines like cheaper.De also show the current selling price, which you can compare with the rental fees for the usual two-year contract. here’s an example: the fritzbox 7560 costs around five euros a month with 1&1 and other providers, which equates to just under 120 euros after 24 months. The purchase price of around 150 euros for the same hardware is therefore already worthwhile after a rental period of two and a half years. some providers subsidize the purchase and offer the router at a lower price. At vodafone, however, this only applies to VDSL connections, not to the cable variant.

For logistical reasons, most Internet providers only allow you to choose between two or three rental routers. Whether these meet your personal requirements in terms of WLAN standard, frequency and bandwidth, telephony functions, network speed, number and type of connections, and so on, is a matter for you to decide on an individual basis. Our comprehensive router buying guide can help you, but the device must of course match the connection you want (cable, VDSL, and so on).

router free also applies to existing customers

According to the wording, the new law on router freedom only applies to Internet connections that are installed after the cut-off date of 1 January 2009. new contracts signed on August 2016. if you had just signed a two-year contract, you should continue to live with the forced router for the time being. Last fall, the consumer advice center in north rhine-Westphalia filed a lawsuit against this practice, and the court ruled in its favor. The judges explicitly state that router freedom also applies to existing customers and thus also to ongoing contracts (az.: 45 O 56/16). Previously, the defendant internet provider had refused to hand over the customer data required for the use of a third-party router, citing the text of the law.

The advantages of renting a router, the disadvantages of buying one

The rental router is easy to set up: unpack, connect – and it’s up and running! This has always been the case with devices for Internet via TV cable, because unlike DSL devices, these are identified via the individual MAC address linked to the router. As soon as a router is connected somewhere in the cable network of the respective provider, it is automatically enabled via the device-specific identifier with the bandwidth booked by the customer. With DSL routers, on the other hand, the customer traditionally has to enter his personal access data, which the network operator has previously sent him by letter. This is more complicated, but on the other hand it can be done in one or two minutes. Only with the so-called provisioned or branded routers and the provider’s own models, such as the easybox from vodafone or the speedport from deutsche telekom, did the previous DSL registration procedure become partially superfluous.

Deploying your own router: this is how it works

If you want to use your own router instead of one rented from the provider, you will need your access data for a DSL device. These are sent to you by your provider on request, depending on the provider you have already received them at the beginning of the contract anyway. The situation is more complicated with cable connections, because the routers have to be activated using an individual hardware identifier (MAC address and/or serial number). The procedure differs from cable provider to cable provider, but activation can usually be carried out via the online customer center.

If you pay a monthly fee for the previous rental device but no longer need it, please do not forget to cancel the rental agreement and return the hardware to the provider in good time. Often the deadline for this is just 14 days.

As convenient as the use of these rental devices is on the one hand, there are some disadvantages: first and foremost in terms of functions. We have already mentioned the limitations of the entry-level models, but these also apply in part to the branded routers: a branded fritzbox model provided by the provider does not necessarily correspond to the supposedly "same" hardware that is available over the counter. This gives the network operator the option of blocking the use of IP telephony via an alternative provider for a customer with a double Internet and telephone flat rate by means of special firmware.

You can only find out about such hidden restrictions in advance through intensive research in internet forums; if in doubt, you notice them too late and only when you want to set up and use the function yourself. For this reason, even if you buy a used router on ebay& co. Be careful not to acquire a "provider edition. Some private sellers probably don’t even know this because it’s only mentioned in small print on the bottom of the device label.

The network operators also have a hand in security-relevant functions. For example, they may release an important firmware update weeks later, after you could have downloaded it from the hardware manufacturer long ago – assuming you have the "free" router model.

Contrary to what is claimed, the warning about functional limitations quoted at the beginning does not apply to the customer’s own router, but much more frequently to those of the provider. On the other hand, customers have to take care of the operation of their own router themselves and, for example, update the firmware, unless this is done automatically anyway.

Problems with your own router may arise in the rare event of a malfunction. Because while the provider is responsible for the network, line and end device in the case of a rental device, support can otherwise try to pass the problem on to the customer: "it’s your router". If you are aware of the pitfalls outlined in the box on page 65, it is therefore perfectly sensible to have the provider send you a free rental device – even if it is only a cheap modem that you otherwise never use. In the event of a fault, you can test yourself whether the defect is in the line or in the end device, and of course prove this to the provider.

Conclusion: the rented router is easier, but your own offers more

If you just want to access the internet and don’t need any special functions, a rented router is a good choice. However, only devices that can hardly do anything, i.e. offer neither WLAN nor cordless DECT telephony, are often free of charge. More powerful routers usually cost between three and eight euros a month to rent, making a purchased device cheaper in the long run. An alternative is to rent from routermiete.De , where the popular fritzbox models cost just under three euros per month (for a 24-month term).

But more important than the cost issue is the fact that providers are able to restrict the functions of their branded rental routers via firmware – even for models that can actually do more as "free" devices. if you want to use all device functions, you are better off with your own router. Moreover, activation and configuration are by no means complicated and are well documented. Furthermore, you can install new firmware as soon as the hardware manufacturer has published it – and not only when the provider releases it. For experienced users, their own router is and remains the first choice. by the way, you don’t have to worry about functional limitations due to possible "incompatibilities" with the provider networks with the branded routers.

Finally, there is still the option of using the rented router only as a modem for Internet access and connecting your own individually configured device behind it. Although the dual solution is less elegant and consumes a little more power, it is a real alternative for cable customers, especially in view of the scarcely available routers.

Contracts with compulsory equipment remain in place

It is quite understandable that providers do not want to miss out on their previous additional business with rented routers. Less so, however, is the fact that some providers continue to equip their customers with compulsory hardware despite the new router freedom. Although the customer does not have to use this, the usual ten euros for shipping is still charged. In addition, the device must be returned at the end of the contract – often within 14 days – otherwise a "transfer fee" becomes due. So if you forget the unused device, you can buy it later, for example from o2 and vodafone!

Although this is different with deutsche telekom, it is also not really transparent: because during the ordering process, in the "required hardware for my selection" step, there are only two chargeable device options to choose from. The fact that you can skip this step is certainly not obvious to everyone. easybell, on the other hand, provides exemplary information: "no router obligation, but the test winner of the stiftung warentest on request. Our offer: AVM fritzbox 7490 WLAN router for 4.50 euros/month (rental) or 169 euros one-time (purchase)."

for this reason, when signing an internet contract, please pay attention to the rental and shipping costs of the forced router or modem on the one hand, and on the other hand also to the exact cancellation and return conditions.

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