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Router and gateway are two confusing terms that often come during the discussion about communication and networking devices. We will try to provide our readers with some valuable information about the difference between network routers and gateways through this article. Before moving ahead, it is vital to understand the similarities between gateways and routers. Both devices come with the capability of regulating network traffic between two or more distinct networks.

What is a Network Gateway?

As its name confirms, network gateway is a term used to represent a network entity. It is also called a protocol converter. A gateway connects the network-enabled devices of one network to the network-enabled devices of another network. Gateways also define network boundaries. In case if there are two networks with different protocols and a connection between them is desired, then each network should have a dedicated gateway to provide an entry path for devices from both networks. In simple words, gateways are essential for joining different systems.

Here, it is needed to be clarified that; a router, switch, or even a PC can be configured to operate as a gateway. In case if you want to route traffic within the same network segment, you won’t require a gateway. However, in cases where the host communicated with computers or other devices outside its native network segment, all packets must be sent to the relevant gateway device to be forwarded through its processing protocol.


What is a Network Router?

A network router is a device that receives, analyzes and forwards the data packets from one network to another. The router reads the address information contained by the data packets. It establishes the correct destination, then uses the routing policy or routing table to forward the packet to the next-hop or next network. A router is a device capable of receiving and sending data packets between different computer networks while creating an overlay network. 

Router vs Gateway: What are the similarities?

Both gateways and routers are hardware components that control traffic and govern its flow between two or more physically separate networks. In some cases, networks may utilize routers as access-point and end-point, and in such cases, the router operates as a gateway. 

A gateway usually works with a switch and a router to ensure a smooth routing process in typical scenarios. When a gateway receives a data packet, it resolves the protocol, and the router forwards it to the next router. 

It must be indicated that both routers and gateways require network cards to facilitate communication. In most cases, you won’t need to acquire a separate network card because routers and gateways are offered with factory fitted network interface cards.

A router is a hardware component that directs the received data packets received from one network to another. On the other hand, a gateway operates as a gate between different networks or systems. Routers and Gateways are pretty diverse when it comes to their working principle.


Before reaching the router, data packets travel across the gateway channel, and the gateway checks the header information contained by these packets. As per the requirement of the destination network, the gateway performs protocol conversion on the packet. Finally, the processed data packet is forwarded to the relevant router for further communication between two separate networks. 

The network router uses the destination address as contained by the received packet and determines the best route by using the information available on its routing table. The routing table provides up-to-date information and defines the output interface, the next stop, destination and other routing parameters for the data packet. Finally, the data packet is sent to its destination through the best route.


The relation between router and gateway can be summed up in a single sentence: gatewaying is a theoretical concept that can be implemented with the help of a router. Peer-to-peer routers and gateways can be used in case if your devices share the same network. However, a gateway will be required if you are looking to connect two separate networks with different protocols.