Why Are There So Many Different Names for These Devices?

One challenge relates to the names that technology experts use to refer to these devices, whether it’s your Internet service provider (ISP) or the salesperson at the big box store. You’ve probably heard these devices called several different things, such as a modem, gateway, router, or maybe even an access point.

What’s the difference between all of these devices? It can definitely be complicated. The first important thing to understand is that these devices collectively perform two different functions. They make it possible for your ISP to bring an Internet connection into your home and they make it possible for that connection to be converted to a Wi-Fi signal so you can get online wirelessly from any of your devices.

One-device Solution: Residential Gateway

GigabitNow App

Sometimes both of these functions are combined in a single device, which is usually called a residential gateway. Not only does it bring the Internet connection into your home from your ISP’s network, it also provides a Wi-Fi signal throughout your home so you can connect wirelessly to the Internet with your laptop, smart phone, or other devices.

When you order fiber Internet service with GigabitNow you have two options using the one-device solution; the core gateway or our optional GigabitNow Wi-Fi Plus that includes the GigabitNow app. Or you can use a two-device solution by using your own router and the core gateway.

GigabitNow makes it easy! If you are not savvy with technology it can be extremely beneficial to have a technician available for you anytime you need help. With our optional Gigabit Wi-Fi Plus and Wi-Fi 6 fiber gateway, you get latest Wi-Fi 6 technology available today and a 24/7 technician available to help with wireless issues, reconfiguring the Wi-Fi setup, updating the SSID password or getting a new device connected. The included app allows you to monitor and control your network all from your mobile device. This service is only $11 a month.

Two-device Solution: Modem Plus Router

When both of these capabilities are not provided in a single device, two separate devices are required — one for each function.

If the connection is coming into your home over copper phone wires, it’s using the technology called DSL — digital subscriber line. There are different types of DSL, but they all require a device called a modem to bring an Internet connection into your home. If the connection is coming over coax cable you have a cable modem. If you have an optical network terminal (ONT), you are lucky enough to have a fiber-optic Internet connection.

One thing to keep in mind: some people will refer to the device that performs this function as a modem, even when it’s actually an ONT.

About Routers and Access Points


In addition to a modem, you need a device that broadcasts a Wi-Fi signal throughout your home. This device is usually called a wireless router, although it’s also sometimes called an access point. Regardless of the name, you plug this Wi-Fi device into the modem and it lets you connect your laptops, phones, tablets and other devices to it wirelessly.

In Summary

Access Point

If you have just one networking device in your house, it’s called a residential gateway. This device contains both the modem functionality to provide your Internet connection, and the router or access point functionality that allows you to connect your devices to your home Wi-Fi network.

On the other hand, if you have two devices in your home, one of them is called a modem or an ONT and it’s used to bring the Internet connection into your home. The other is a Wi-Fi router or access point, and it makes it possible for you to connect your devices wirelessly to the network.

Published: November 2, 2023