Router vs Gateway vs Modem for Cable Internet: Which do I need?

Learn > Cable Modem & Routers > Router vs Gateway vs Modem for Cable Internet: Which do I need?

To get cable Internet in your home, there are a few devices that you need to know about:

  • Cable modem
  • Router
  • Gateway

The difference is whether you want two devices or one device to get an Internet connection. There are pros and cons to each option.

For cable Internet, you definitely need a cable modem. This will give you a reliable, wired Internet connection. If you want wireless Internet (WiFi), then you also need a router. If you don’t want separate devices, get a gateway – also called a cable modem router – which is a device that is both a cable modem and router.

Here is a breakdown of each type of device, what they do and how they differ.

 

What is a modem?

A modem is the device that speaks directly with the Internet service provider (ISP). There are different types of modems. For this page, we specifically focus on the cable modem. A cable modem communicates with an ISP through the same coaxial cable you use for cable TV. You can directly plug in your device for an Internet connection, or the data comes in and passes onto the router for WiFi.

 

What is a router?

A router receives data from a modem and translates it into something that wireless devices understand. The translated data is called a WiFi signal. The router is the central hub of a wireless Internet (WiFi) network.

 

What is a gateway?

While you can have a cable modem and a router to get cable Internet in your home, you may not want individual devices. There are many reasons why: convenience, small living space, cost savings, etc. The solution is to get a combined device called a gateway (or cable modem router). These modem/router combo devices offer the convenience of one device that performs the function of a cable modem and a router.

 

Which do I choose?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer. The set up you choose depends on your situation, needs and whether you are renting or buying. For example, a gateway (cable modem router) could be the best solution for you if you don’t have a lot of space for clutter and want a cost-effective option. However, if customization is a priority, then choosing separate cable modem and router devices will work best for you. It also depends on which devices are compatible with your ISP.

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