Cable Modem & Gateway Introduction

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This Cable Gateway guide will help you to understand essential information about Cable Modems and Cable Gateways so you can make informed decisions about your Internet services.

In this article, we will cover:

  • What is a Cable Modem and How Does it Work?
  • A Comparison of Cable Modems vs Routers, Cable Modem Routers, and Gateways


First, What is a Cable Modem and How Does it Work?

A cable modem is a hardware device that connects you to your Internet service provider (ISP) and delivers broadband Internet service to your home. A cable modem is connected using coaxial cables or wiring, which are the same cables that you use to get cable TV.

How cable modems work is pretty basic. The coaxial wires connect to the back of the modem and to the bolt-like outlet in your wall or on your cable box. A cable modem communicates with your ISP using upstream and downstream channels (also called upload and download channels) to provide you with an Internet connection.

Cable modems can also enable a wireless Internet connection, or Wi-Fi, which is done by having a combination device called a cable modem router or by adding a separate router. A cable gateway allows you to create a wireless internet connection (Wi-Fi) so you can move around your home with your wireless devices, such as tablets, phones and laptops.

Cable modems are essentially digital translators of your ISP’s Internet data signals and communicate using radio frequency (RF) to distribute these signals across your local network. A cable modem can operate on either a fixed or switchable frequency.

Every cable modem/cable gateway comes with a DOCSIS speed standard (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification). The version of DOCSIS is what makes it possible for cable modems and cable modem routers to support high-bandwidth speeds. DOCSIS 3.1 is the highest standard, meaning that it is the fastest. There are other DOCSIS standards to know, like DOCSIS 2.0 and 3.0.


Comparing Cable Modems, Routers, Cable Modem Routers and Gateways

A cable modem and a router have different functions.  They are both hardware devices, but a cable modem communicates directly to your ISP while a router translates the data and distributes it as a wireless Wi-Fi signal/Internet connection to your devices.

If you don’t want two separate devices you can get an integrated device called a cable modem router. A cable modem router provides you with a Wi-Fi or wireless connection for your Internet devices.

A cable modem router is also called a gateway. You might buy a gateway (cable modem router) if you are want Wi-Fi in your home but are looking for the convenience of an all-in-one device.

For more information on cable modems, cable modem routers and related topics, check out Hitron’s ​Learn Page​.

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