What is Network Address Translation (NAT)?

What is Network Address Translation (NAT)?

NAT acts as a translator between private and public IP addresses. It translates private IP addresses of devices to a single public IP address.


3 min read

Network Address Translation (NAT) is a technique used in computer networking to modify network address information in packet headers while in transit across a network. NAT serves several purposes, primarily enabling multiple devices within a private network to share a single public IP address and facilitating communication between devices in a private network and devices on the internet.

Imagine a large apartment building where everyone receives their mail through a single mailroom. The mailroom efficiently sorts and distributes the mail based on the apartment number (private address) written inside each envelope. This system is analogous to how Network Address Translation (NAT) works in the digital world.

How does NAT function?

NAT acts as a translator between private and public IP addresses. In a typical network setup, devices within a private network are assigned private IP addresses, while devices connected directly to the internet have public IP addresses.

  • Limited Public IPs - Public IP addresses are globally unique and allow devices to communicate with each other across the internet. Hence Public IP addresses, are a limited resource. Assigning a unique public IP to every device on a network would be impractical and quickly exhaust the available pool.

  • Private IP Addresses - To address this limitation, devices within a network are assigned private IP addresses. Private IP addresses are not routable over the internet, meaning they cannot be used for direct communication with devices outside the local network.

  • The Role of NAT - A network device, typically your router, acts as the NAT gateway. It translates private IP addresses of devices on your network to a single public IP address assigned by your ISP. This public IP acts as the network's representative on the internet.

How does NAT work?

  1. Data Originates: When a device on your network (e.g., your phone) wants to access the internet, it sends out data packets.

  2. Private to Public Translation: The router intercepts the data packet. It replaces the device's private IP address with the network's public IP address.

  3. Out to the World: The translated packet is sent out to the internet.

  4. Response Received: The requested information from the internet travels back to the router with the public IP address.

  5. Public to Private Translation: The router recognizes the public IP and uses a table it maintains to translate the address back to the originating device's private IP address within the network.

  6. Data Delivered: The device receives the information it requested.

Benefits of NAT

  • Efficient Use of Public IP Addresses: NAT allows multiple devices to share a single public IP, conserving this limited resource.

  • Security: Since devices use private IP addresses internally, it adds a layer of security by making them invisible to the outside world.


NAT is crucial for enabling internet access in most home and small office networks. It acts as the invisible translator, ensuring smooth communication between your private network and the vast public internet. However, it's important to note that NAT can sometimes hinder certain applications that require direct external connections.

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