Learn the Meaning of a Network Gateway

Gateways connect networks so the devices on them can communicate

A network gateway joins two networks so the devices on one network can communicate with the devices on another network. Without gateways, you wouldn't be able to access the internet, communicate and send data back and forth. A gateway can be implemented completely in software, hardware, or a combination of both. Because a network gateway by definition appears at the edge of a network, related capabilities such as firewalls and proxy servers tend to be integrated with it.

Types of Gateways for Homes and Small Businesses

Whichever type of network gateway you use in your home or small business, the function is the same. It connects your local area network (LAN) and all the devices on it to the internet and from there to wherever the devices want to go. Types of network gateways in use include:

On home networks and in small businesses, a broadband router typically serves as the network gateway. It connects the devices in your home or small business with the internet. A gateway is the most important feature of a router. Routers are the most common type of gateways.

In some cases, such as in a residence that uses dial-up internet access, the gateway is a router at the internet service provider's location. This has become increasingly less common as dial-up access declines in popularity.

Some small businesses configure a computer to serve as the gateway to the internet, rather than use a router. This method requires two network adapters — one connected to the local network and one connected to the internet.

Two coloured ropes knotting together
Richard Drury / Getty Images

Gateways as Protocol Converters

Gateways are network protocol converters. Often the two networks that a gateway joins use different base protocols. The gateway facilitates compatibility between the two protocols. Depending on the types of protocols they support, network gateways can operate at any level of the OSI model.

  • What is a default gateway?

    A default gateway is a hardware point that provides access for devices in one network to communicate with devices in another network.

  • What is a wireless gateway?

    A wireless gateway functions as a modem and a router and includes a Wi-Fi access point.

  • What is a bad gateway error?

    A bad gateway error message, such as 502 Bad Gateway, indicates something wrong with a website's server communication. You can try refreshing the browser, starting a new browser session, or clearing your browser's cache to fix the error.

  • What is a gateway ping?

    To ping the gateway is to send a signal testing network connectivity. You can use the ping command in Command Prompt by entering ping <default gateway address> where <default gateway address> is your default gateway address.

Was this page helpful?