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Table Of Contents  The TCP/IP Guide
 9  Networking Fundamentals
      9  Fundamental Network Characteristics

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Protocols: What Are They, Anyway?
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Connection-Oriented and Connectionless Protocols
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Circuit Switching and Packet Switching Networks
(Page 2 of 3)

Packet Switching

In this network type, no specific path is used for data transfer. Instead, the data is chopped up into small pieces called packets and sent over the network. The packets can be routed, combined or fragmented, as required to get them to their eventual destination. On the receiving end, the process is reversed—the data is read from the packets and re-assembled into the form of the original data. A packet-switched network is more analogous to the postal system than it is to the telephone system (though the comparison isn't perfect.) An example is shown in Figure 2.


Figure 2: Packet Switching

In a packet-switched network, no circuit is set up prior to sending data between devices. Blocks of data, even from the same file or communication, may take any number of paths as it journeys from one device to another. Compare this to Figure 1

 


Key Concept: One way that networking technologies are categorized is based on the path used to carry data between devices. In circuit switching, a circuit is first established and then used to carry all data between devices. In packet switching no fixed path is created between devices that communicate; it is broken into packets, each of which may take a separate path from sender to recipient.



Previous Topic/Section
Protocols: What Are They, Anyway?
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2
3
Next Page
Connection-Oriented and Connectionless Protocols
Next Topic/Section

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