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Broadly speaking a gateway is simply an entrance point for one network to another network, hence the name gateway. Typically a gateway must convert one protocol stack into another.
On the Internet, a node or stopping point can be either a gateway node or host (end-point) node. Both the computers of Internet users and the computers that serve pages are host nodes, while the nodes that connect the networks in between are gateways.
A gateway is an essential feature to most routers, although other devices can function as a gateway. A router by itself can transfer, accept and relay packets of information but only across networks using similar protocols. However a gateway can accept a packet formatted for one protocol and convert into to another protocol format.
Typically a gateway is implemented in hardware, software or both, but they are usually implement by software installed within a router.
According to Wikipedia Gateway (telecommunications) is:
"A gateway may contain devices such as protocol translators, impedance matching devices, rate converters, fault isolators, or signal translators as necessary to provide system interoperability. It also requires the establishment of mutually acceptable administrative procedures between both networks.
A protocol translation/mapping gateway interconnects networks with different network protocol technologies by performing the required protocol conversions. "