Updated August 10, 2023
What is Packet Switching?
Packet switching is a channel addressed with packets for data transmission. Packet switching is a method of routing and grouping the data as packets to transfer in a channel, where the packet channel can be made available for the next transfer in network traffic. It basically occupies the channel in traffic, so that the packets containing can be transferred to the routed address in the network. To deliver the data correctly, Packets are structured with header and payload in them. Header is used for directing the data packets to destination and Payload is used for data extraction, and it’s the core data. It is referred to as message switching. In the data transmission, any messages exceeding the maximum limit will be broken into smaller units, and that smaller unit are considered as packets.
The unique difference in Packet switching is: Transmission of data to packet are formed with predefined header and the link used for data communication will not be used by any other packets.
Packets & its structure
A packet is constructed as a unit of data routed from the origin in the packet-switched network to its destination. For Ex: A user sends an email to the company’s customer support. An email can contain an attached image or PDF etc. The email is sent through the network as a packet-based transfer. The protocol in the network layer i.e. TCP/IP breaks the data into smaller chunks as packets and routed towards the destination. Each packet will be numbered and routed to different routes; when it has arrived at the destination, the packets are assembled to the original format. This reassembling is done by TCP at the destination.
Packets are structured as Header, Payload, and Footer. According to the protocols used, the structure may vary:
- Addresses – origin & destination
- Error Handling
- Hop counts
Why do we Use Packet Switching?
This question answers our whole networking across the world. Because the internet world is all connected as connectionless links and most networking works in a similar manner. It follows such a tradition that the communication type between the senders and receiver is connectionless. When the data are transmitted, the communication is broken down into packets, and it shares the same data path with various users in the same network is called connectionless.
There is a contrast with packet switching called circuit switching. Circuit switching is dedicated during connection and keeps unavailable for other users until the linkage ends. This benefits the users to opt for packet switching. It is used in many applications because of its stable and efficient networking. It is also used in many organizations as they are used for various technologies. Here we can see, why packet switching is used widely.
- Packet has the intelligence to find its destination path using routers when a linkage is broken or the packets are lost. So this is resilient that packets can transfer efficiently in traffic.
- Packet switching is network efficient as each packet identifies its own path to reach the destination and it does not require any dedicated connection for transmission.
- It is cost-effective and scalable as the packets efficiently use the data transmission path and links are managed efficiently.
- It is so reliable in networking where the packets are not lost in transmission. Because the packets are numbered. It can reassemble at the receiver end, though it travels in different communications paths.
- It uses two protocols according to the usage of network service. Connectionless and Connection-oriented protocol.
- The connectionless protocol is used when the transmission doesn’t require any prior setup for packet transfer.
- The connection-oriented protocol is used for complex data transactions. Prior setup is made and routed from source to destination. The delay time is the same as the data transfer time in connectionless switching.
- Applications use packet switching with improvised protocols of voice and video calls are, WhatsApp, skype, etc.
Importance’s of Packet Switching
- Packet switching is important as the communication links are decided based on the size of the packets. When the packets are shorter, the communication links between nodes are allocated for a shorter period for transferring each packet. And the longer messages require several packets, i.e. series of packets are used for transmitting. The link for transmitting the packets doesn’t need to be dedicated. The linkage between the nodes connected can carry each packet and assembled it where the resources are shared.
- The method of packet switching is considered pipelining. Pipelining is the transfer of packets from one node to other is carried in a simultaneous way such as when a packet is transferred from A to B and C to D, packets can be transferred from B to C and C to A and B to D also. This way of transmission saves the propagation time and the delay is less. The transmission of packets with a low delay time has greater efficiency than message switching.
- Reduced usage of communication paths brings greater efficiency in packet switching as there will be less bandwidth wastage. And this carries the main advantage in switching.
- Packet switching is fault-tolerant because the packets transmitting from origin to destination may carry different routes and it can malfunction in the network.
- For data communication in the digital network, it allows direct transmission of digital data from sender to receiver.
- Error checking is done in packet switching where it keeps the quality of data high in distributed format also. So the data distributed are error-free in packet switching.
- Before the transmission of data as packets, the size of the packet is fixed and determined to use the required link. This reduces the delay in-network by avoiding the waiting queue.
There are types in packet switching as virtual circuit and datagram packet switching and each has its own way of approach for packet transmission. Though packet switching takes more amount of space, processing power for switching protocols. Packet switching is considerably used in many organizations and technically good for transmission.
This is a guide to What is Packet Switching?. Here we discuss why we use Packet Switching and its importance along with structure. You can also go through our other suggested articles to learn more –