As application data is passed down the protocol stack on its way to be transmitted across the network media, various protocols add information to it at each level. This is commonly known as the encapsulation process.
The form that a piece of data takes at any layer is called a protocol data unit (PDU). During encapsulation, each succeeding layer encapsulates the PDU that it receives from the layer above in accordance with the protocol being used. At each stage of the process, a PDU has a different name to reflect its new functions. Although there is no universal naming convention for PDUs, in this course, the PDUs are named according to the protocols of the TCP/IP suite, as shown in the figure:
- Data - The general term for the PDU used at the application layer
- Segment - Transport layer PDU
- Packet - Internet layer PDU
- Frame - Network access layer PDU
- Bits - A PDU used when physically transmitting data over the medium