Anonymous asked in Computers & InternetComputer Networking · 6 years ago

What is the difference between an access point (AP), a modem, a router, and a gateway?

They seem to be doing similar tasks so i'm confused.

4 Answers

  • 6 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    A modem is the device that does the actual communication with the Internet. Back in the Old Days, this was a device that connected straight to the phone line and is what all the clicks and beeps and famous dial up noises came from. Nowadays it'll be an ADSL (phone line broadband), Fibre Optic, or Cable modem, most likely, and the vast majority nowadays are built into the Router.

    The router is the unit that organises the connections between devices on your network, what they're talking to, whether they're talking to the Internet (via the modem), whether they're talking to each other, all that mess the Router sorts out.

    An access point is a device used to interface a wireless network with a wired network. Usually nowadays these are built into the router, but in days of yore, if a router dealt with wired connections only, and you wanted to add wireless, you'd connect an Access Point to it.

    A Gateway is an interface between two types of network. Most commonly this is the interface between your own home network and the Internet, so the modem (or modem router combo as is the case most commonly nowadays) is the gateway.

    This below is an example of the process if the router is an old one that doesn't have wireless built into it.

    Your computer))))Wireless )))) Access Point ---- Wired ---- [ Router --- Modem ]--- Internet

    The router modem combo there would be the gateway.

    Hope that makes a bit more sense.

  • 6 years ago

    Modem: modulator/demodulator. It converts a signal from one form to another. For example, the signal coming from a cable connection to an ethernet signal.

    Router: a device which keeps track of different computers and how to get to them. It typically provides other services such as DHCP/IP address assignment. Most home based routers also have an ethernet switch built into them and they route the traffic coming in from the internet to the target computer. Many of them also offer WiFi networking.

    An Access Point is device which provides WiFi signal without any other functionality.

    A gateway is something which sits between two different networks. Typically this is a router. Sometimes a modem and router are combined into a single device. These modem/router combo's are sometimes thought of as gateways.

  • VP
    Lv 7
    6 years ago

    They do and they don't. For some of us "old-timers," a modem and a router were two separate pieces of equipment. Fast forward 30 years and now one device can perform the duties of several old pieces of equipment. Which is why younger people are confused. So let's go back in time for two minutes...


    In 1985, a modem is what you used to connect your computer to another computer. The modem connected to your computer dialed your friend's modem, did a bunch of "squealching" and finally the two modems could talk to each other. What was really going on is that your computer spoke a "digital" language, but the phone company needed to convert your digital signal to an analog signal so that their phone equipment could transmit the signal. Once it reached your friend's modem, his modem converted the signal from analog to digital and passed it on to his computer. MODEM is an acronym that stands for MOdulate - DEModulate (which is the conversion from digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital).


    Routers are used to decide which path (direction) to use to "route" your requests. Routers use IP addresses and some internal rules to figure out the next router to send your request to. It's very common for that web server you're trying to use to be 10 - 15 routers "away" from your home router. Each router along the path gets your request, looks at the IP you're trying to reach, then sends your request to the next router it's been told to use. Network Admins are the ones who configure routers and tell them which way to send certain requests.


    Depending on its usage, a gateway or gateway device can mean several things. The simplest -- it means the device that all Internet-bound traffic has to use when trying to leave your home network. It is also used by some to describe a device that handles both modem and router functions. In normal networking lingo, a gateway is any interface (connection) available to use on a router.

    Access Point:

    Both a piece of hardware and at times a simple function -- Access Points are ways to connect wirelessly to a network. When describing a piece of hardware, an AP sends out a Wi-Fi signal that users can connect to. The AP can also provide security by forcing users to enter signon credentials before allowing them access. Routers can also be used as access points by turning off (dumbing down) certain functions and simply allowing it to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal and enforce password security.

    Just my two cents! Feel free to Google these terms and use their explanations.

  • 6 years ago

    I believe a modem and a router are the same thing.

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