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Gateway vs Router: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to the difference between gateway vs router, many people who are unfamiliar with gateway and router may be confused. So it’s necessary to clarify the differences between them. To help you get a general idea about the differences between gateway and router, this article will focus on what is a gateway, what is a router, gateway vs router: what’s the difference, and when to choose which.

What Is a Gateway?

As is suggested by its name, a gateway is a network entity and also called the protocol converter. It can connect a computer of one network to another and define the boundaries of a network. If two networks of different protocols want to connect with each other, both networks need to have gateways which provide exist and entry points for computers from the two networks to communicate. In another word, a gateway can join dissimilar systems.

Gateway vs router: How a gateway works as a protocol converter

Figure1: How a gateway works as a protocol converter

What Is a Router?

As a network layer device, a router connects multiple networks together and controls the data traffic between them. People who are new to router often muddle it with network switch, which is a high-speed device that receives incoming data packets and redirects them to their destination on a LAN. Based on internal routing tables, a network router reads each incoming packet’s IP address and its destination IP address, then decides the shortest possible path to forward it. What is a routing table? A routing table contains a list of IP addresses that a router can connect to transfer data. Besides, routers usually connect WANs and LANs together and have a dynamically updating routing table. Gigabit Ethernet switches and hubs can be connected to a router with multiple PC ports to expand a LAN. Not only that, a router divides broadcast domains of hosts connected through it.

Gateway vs router: How a router works in wired and wireless connections

Figure2: How a router works in wired and wireless connections

Gateway vs Router: What’s the Difference?

What are the differences between gateway and router? The following chart will differentiate them from 7 different aspects.

Network Equipment
Primary Function
To ensure that data packets are switched to the right addresses.
To connect two networks of different protocols as a translator.
Feature Support
DHCP server, NAT, static routing, wireless networking, IPv6 address, Mac address
Protocol conversion like VoIP to PSTN, network access control etc.
Dynamic Routing
Not supported
Hosted on
Dedicated appliance (router hardware)
Dedicated/virtual appliance or physical server
Related terms
Internet router, WIFI router
Proxy server, gateway router, voice gateway
OSI layer
Works on Layer 3 and 4
Works up to Layer 5
Working principle
Installing routing information for various networks and routing traffic based on destination address
differentiating what is inside network and what is outside network

Gateway vs Router: When to Choose Which?

To choose between gateway vs router, you need to consider the requirement of your network.

Connection In One Network With Router

For example, there are 30 computers connected inside Network A. All these computers communicate with each other. In this situation, no gateway is needed. Because a router with a routing table that defines the hops within those 30 computers is enough.

Connection Between Different Networks With Gateway

In another hand, we suppose that there are two networks, that are Network A and Network B. Computer X from Network A wants to send data to Computer Y from Network B, then there need to have both a Gateway A and a Gateway B so that the two networks will be able to communicate.


Gateway vs router is detailedly explained in the above passage from the aspects of primary function, supporting feature, support of dynamic routing, working principle, etc. Briefly speaking, a gateway is a single point of access to computers outside your network like a door, while a router determines the shortest possible path your data can travel from Computer A to Computer B, like a hallway or a staircase. All in all, it is important to consider both your current and potential future needs when assessing what option to use between gateway vs router.

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