1. The Signal
  2. Category:Internet Devices

Internet DevicesCategory

Pros & Cons of Using a Gateway vs. Router & Modem

If you have home internet, you likely also have a modem and a router. However, while modems and routers used to be two separate pieces of hardware, increasingly, they’re combined into one device called a gateway. Depending on your internet service provider (ISP), you might have an individual modem and router or a gateway device.
Person working remotely with Wifi from their Gateway

T-Mobile Home Internet customers, for example, utilize a wireless 5G Gateway  device in tandem with the next generation of Wi-Fi technology (Wi-Fi 6 ) to stay connected at home.

But if you’re not on a T-Mobile Home Internet plan or you're just looking to buy your own hardware, it can be hard to decide whether you need a modem and router or a single gateway. Here's everything you need to know about gateways vs. router and modem setups.

What is a modem?

Your modem is basically your home’s portal to the internet. Your internet service provider connects your home to a central hub depending on the type of internet you have. Then your modem transforms electrical information from that hub into information that your connected devices can process. It also uploads information from your connected devices. Whether you have cable, DSL, or satellite internet , you need a modem.  However, modems are not interchangeable, so the type of internet service you have, and the speeds included in your plan determine what modem you need.

If your modem and router are separate pieces of hardware, then your modem looks like a small, skinny black box. Not all modems have antennas, but some have one or two. A modem also has between two and four ethernet ports and one or two USB ports. It connects to the wall with a coaxial cable and to your router with an ethernet cable. 

What is a router?

While the modem brings the internet into your home, your router broadcasts your internet signal to devices connected to your home's Wi-Fi network. Each network created by a router is private and that network is usually accessed with a unique password. Routers cannot connect to the internet without a modem. So, while they can also be used to connect devices to one another, such as a computer to a printer, without a modem, routers aren’t much use for getting online. Where you keep your router can also affect your internet speeds, so experiment with different locations until you get the best signal.

What is a gateway?

A gateway is a device that acts as both modem and router for your home network, combining the features of both in a single piece of hardware. If you have fiber internet or DSL, your provider may require you to rent one of these gateways. As mentioned earlier, T-Mobile 5G Home Internet utilizes a wireless gateway device to keep customers connected at home— but there’s no additional equipment fee.

Gateway vs. router and modem

If you want the option of owning your own modem and router, or potentially buying a single gateway device, here are a few things to consider.

Router and modem

For those who wish to own their own equipment to avoid paying ongoing fees for hardware, it could make financial sense to own a separate router and modem. Modems generally last longer than routers, since Wi-Fi technology is constantly improving, while improvements to internet connections like cable and phone lines, happen over time. Routers usually need to be replaced every couple of years due to improvements to Wi-Fi technology, such as Wi-Fi 6—whereas a modem could last twice as long. However, while some internet subscribers generally have more freedom when it comes to selecting a modem, other types of internet, like fiber, generally mean depending on ISPs for hardware.


The main benefit of a gateway device is simplicity. Separate modems and routers require connecting them with cumbersome, unsightly cords. And in many homes, keeping cords organized and out of sight is a priority. Gateways are definitely sleeker and are also generally easier to set up than separate modems and routers—and combining devices could cut down on troubleshooting if connectivity problems arise.

Using the gateway device supplied by your ISP also means less worry about upgrades. As technology improves or you upgrade your plan, you can often expect upgraded hardware, not to mention ongoing firmware updates, which can be pushed out automatically as soon as they're available.

T-Mobile is America’s fastest growing Home Internet provider. See if it's available in your area now and then find a plan that's right for you.

Sources used: