Preparing for Transportation

After IP addressing is added, the packet is passed to the network access layer for generation of the data onto the media, as shown in the figure. In order for this to occur, the network access layer must first prepare the packet for transmission by placing it into a frame with a header and trailer. This frame includes the host physical address of the source, as well as the physical address of the next hop on the path to the final destination. This is equivalent to the Layer 2, or data link layer, functionality of the OSI model. Layer 2 is concerned with the delivery of messages on a single local network. The Layer 2 address is unique on the local network and represents the address of the end device on the physical media. In a LAN using Ethernet, this address is called the Media Access Control (MAC) address. Once the network access layer has prepared the frame with source and destination addresses, it then encodes the frame into bits, and then into electrical pulses or flashes of light that are sent across the network media.

Transporting the Data

The data is transported through the internetwork, which consists of media and any intermediate devices. As the encapsulated message is transmitted across the network it may travel across several different media and network types. The network access layer specifies the techniques for getting the frame on and off each medium, otherwise known as the media access control method.

If the destination host is in the same network as the source host, the packet is delivered between the two hosts on the local media without the need for a router. However, if the destination host and source host are not in the same network, the packet may be carried across many networks, on many different media types, and through many routers. As it passes along the network, the information contained within the frame is not altered.

At the boundary of each local network, an intermediate network device, usually a router, de-encapsulate the frame to read the destination host address contained in the header of the packet. Routers use the network identifier portion of this address to determine which path to use to reach the destination host. Once the path is determined, the router encapsulates the packet in a new frame and sends it to the next hop on its way toward the destination end device