(also next-hop address, next-hop router)
The next hop is the next immediate router or gateway in the path taken by data packets as they travel through a network. It is an essential concept in routing and helps routers determine the best path for forwarding data packets to their final destination efficiently. The next hop is identified by its IP address, which is stored in the routing table alongside the associated network prefix and other routing information.
See also: default gateway, routing table
The next hop and default gateway are related concepts but have distinct roles in networking. The default gateway is the router or device that a host uses to access other networks when no specific route is available in its routing table. In contrast, the next hop is the next router or device in the path to a specific destination, as determined by the routing table.
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