The basics of Ethernet

In today’s telecom field, Ethernet has been utilized at various levels of the control hierarchy. Since the standardization in 1980, Ethernet has become the most widely installed local area network (LAN) technology either in the office or the enterprise network for the high-end controller. We talk about Ethernet every day, however, people without decades of experience can hardly say they know everything about Ethernet. Therefore, this article is here to provide a foundation of Ethernet basics to improve your understanding of networking in general.

What Is Ethernet?

hubs-switches-routersEthernet is the most widely used LAN technology that serves as one of the main methods for connecting a computer or network to an Internet hub. The origin of Ethernet was the idea of connecting several computers together in a network via coaxial cables; since that time it has evolved into a much more sophisticated system that uses specialized Ethernet cables that connect to a central hub or router to network several computers together. Modern technologies made it possible for Ethernet networks to span tens of kilometers but this doesn’t change the local nature of Ethernet. The picture below shows a network connection with the router, hub, and switch.

For users who have little experience in the telecommunication field, they usually consider Ethernet as a synonym for the Internet. In fact, these two terms are similar, but they are different from each other. The Internet is global in its nature, while Ethernet is a LAN network. An Ethernet network allows many computers or optical devices to connect to one another, this is done with the help of special Ethernet hardware and Ethernet protocols, which will be explained in the below part.

Ethernet Hardware

Ethernet hardware is indispensable for the operation of the Ethernet network. There are three main elements of Ethernet hardware: Ethernet cards, Ethernet cables, and Ethernet hubs and routers.

The Ethernet cards or adapter is the component that is plugged into the computer and the Ethernet cable connects them to the rest of the network. Owing to the Ethernet adapter, a computer can send and receive data packets from the other segments of the network and/or the Internet.

The-Differences-between-CAT5e-CAT6-and-CAT6A-CablesEthernet cables are the medium that carries data in both packets to and from the computers, hubs, and routers in the Ethernet network. It usually comes in a number of styles, with the most common being Category 5, Category 5e or Category 6 cables. This type of cable is twisted copper cables that contain several wires which allow for the transfer of data in both directions to and from the computer. Cat 5e and Cat 6 cables are now the most commonly used Ethernet cable on the market. Network organizers are willing to turn to this copper cable rather than fiber jumper for its reliable performance and low cost. The following image shows the colorful category of copper cables.

Ethernet hubs and Ethernet routers are the other important components of the Ethernet network that mainly serves as a bridge to the internet. The router connects to the modem, which carries the Internet signal, sending and receiving data packet requests and routing them to the proper computers on the network. Even if a network isn’t being used and only a single computer is present, in most cases that computer will connect to the modem by means of an Ethernet cable (or if a wireless router is being used, then the router will be connected to the modem). Hubs act as a common connection point for devices in a network. It is used to connect segments of a LAN. When a packet arrives at one port, it is copied to the other ports so that all segments of the LAN can see all packets.

Ethernet Protocols

In addition to Ethernet hardware, another component that is required in order for Ethernet to work is a set of rules that define the communication within the Ethernet and with external networks. This set of rules is called Ethernet protocols, and there are tens of them used for communication within the Ethernet. As a network standard, each version of Ethernet includes the specification for the physical network layer: how the signals will be sent and received. In order two devices on a network to be able to communicate successfully, it is mandatory that both devices use the same protocol. I cannot discuss all the protocols here, just take Carrier-Sense Multiple Access/Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) protocol as an example, which ensures that there are no collisions on the network and it is one of the most important Ethernet protocols.

Conclusion

What has been discussed in the above article is the basics of Ethernet knowledge including the definition, components, and Ethernet protocols. Ethernet is such a big topic that it is not possible to be very detailed about it. But I still hope that this article about Ethernet basics is useful.

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