I see both terms used, and I was wondering what the difference is between a wifi router, and a wifi access point. Does the latter only create a LAN, with no way to connect the wifi box with a second network?

Thank you.

  • 2
    Think of an access point as a wireless switch.
    – hyperslug
    Sep 17 '09 at 9:11

Access Point is just a bridge between wired and wireless networks. It only operates in 1st and 2nd layer. It doesn't perform any 3rd-layer operations (routing, NAT-ing, IP filtering...)


For the most part the two are used interchangeably, however, technically there is a difference and for the most part consumers only use WiFi Routers.

A WiFi router is a WiFi access point with a built in router. The router allows you to connect multiple computers to the network using a single IP address, typically provided by your ISP.

A WiFi access point is typically used only in enterprise networks where they have a larger router which routes their entire network and the access point only acts as a gateway between the wired and wireless networks.


The access point acts as an ethernet switch, has one Ethernet port and allows WiFi stations to access the same LAN the access point is in.

The router will typically have 4 ethernet ports, 1 special ethernet port called "internet" and will allow creating a new subnet for the Wifi, with DHCP, acting as the default gateway for this subnet


I would say that Access Point (AP) doesn't give you IP addresses. If you plug in to its WAN port, the IP address should be the same from it's 'upper' source (ISP, company's LAN, and hotel etc.). On the other hand, Router would provide you different IP segments. The IPs you've got, to your iPhone, iPad, or wireless devices, should be in different segment from the 'upper' source.

  • 1
    A Wireless Access Point won't have a WAN port, since distinguishing between various networks would require it to be capable of routing. May 27 '15 at 3:02

I'm 11 years late, but here's my answer.

They're not the same because the first contains the word 'router' in it. Let me elaborate: A router routes between networks. A router may or may not have wireless capabilities. If it does, it will have one (or two, if it's dual band) physical radio interfaces, and one (or more) corresponding virtual AP interfaces for each of those. I specifically said 'radio', rather than AP, because some (depending on the firmware) will let you set the operation mode of the radio to something else other than AP mode - e.g. WDS client etc.

The point here is, when someone says 'router' and 'AP', they mainly refer to the physical device. A better way of looking at it is not at the device itself, but at what it does, at its features. Anyway,

An AP contains the AP interface I described in the first part of the answer above, but without the routing capabilities of the router - since it's only an AP. That is, a dedicated AP device is the same as the AP on wireless router, but without 'the router part' and thus normally cheaper.

My point about looking at devices in terms of what they do, rather than what they're labeled as physically is about the fact that a device that has multiple functions of things that have different names makes for ambiguity. For example, a router could easily be set so that it doesn't do any routing and simply acts only as an AP and nothing more - as an entry point for clients into the network of a primary router. It doesn't really make sense to refer to it as a router when it doesn't operate as such. Similarly, I'm now holding in my hands what you'd call a 'repeater' (terminology is at its most conflicting here, almost every website outlining differences that are at odds with others' ideas), but it has two modes on its interface I can set it to: repeater and AP mode. I'm calling it repeater since I'm now using it in repeater mode', but if I switch it over to AP mode, things become unclear if I continue calling it 'repeater'.


Well I Think Access Point is a Device from which we can distribute more Ethernet cable and give access trough wire and wireless. but WIFI devices only through Wireless Signals. there are no extra Ethernet ports to connect the device.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.