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Difference between Circuit switching and Packet Switching Network

Last Updated on August 3, 2023 by Mayank Dham

This article aims to explore the disparities between circuit switching and packet switching, both of which are distinct types of switching techniques. To begin, we’ll delve into some fundamental concepts of switching network technologies, followed by a detailed examination of the dissimilarities between these two methods.

What is Circuit Switching Network?

Circuit switching is a network communication method that establishes a dedicated, continuous connection between two communicating devices for the duration of a session or call. In this type of network, a physical path or circuit is reserved and exclusively used by the communicating parties during their entire communication session.

What is Packet Switching Network?

Packet switching is a network communication method that breaks data into small units called packets and sends them independently over the network to their destination. Unlike circuit switching, where a dedicated path is reserved for the entire communication session, packet switching allows multiple packets from different sources to share the same network resources concurrently.

Difference between Circuit Switching network and Packet Switching Network

Below is a tabular comparison of Circuit Switching network and Packet Switching network:

Feature Circuit Switching Network Packet Switching Network
Connection Establishment Dedicated path is established before data transfer. No dedicated path; packets sent independently.
Resource Allocation Resources are reserved for the entire session. Resources shared dynamically among multiple packets.
Delay Predictable and constant throughout the session. Variable delay (packet jitter) due to routing paths.
Efficiency Less efficient for bursty or non-continuous data. More efficient for bursty and diverse data traffic.
Type of Transmission Connection-oriented. Connectionless.
Real-time Applications Suitable for real-time applications (e.g., voice). Less suitable for real-time applications.
Robustness Less robust – a failure in the circuit disrupts communication. More robust – individual packet loss can be handled.
Example Networks Traditional telephone networks (PSTN). The Internet (TCP/IP-based networks).

In summary, circuit switching provides dedicated connections with predictable delay, making it suitable for real-time applications, but it may lead to inefficient resource utilization. On the other hand, packet switching offers more efficient resource usage, supports diverse data types, and is resilient to individual packet loss, making it ideal for modern data networks like the Internet.

In conclusion, both circuit switching and packet switching are fundamental methods of network communication, each with its advantages and use cases. Circuit switching offers dedicated connections and predictable delay, making it well-suited for real-time applications like voice calls. However, it can be less efficient when it comes to handling bursty or non-continuous data traffic. On the other hand, packet switching provides dynamic resource allocation, higher efficiency in handling diverse data types, and better robustness against individual packet loss, making it the backbone of modern data networks like the Internet. Packet switching’s flexibility and ability to adapt to varying network conditions have contributed to its widespread adoption and scalability.

FAQs related to Circuit Switching vs Packet Switching:

1. Which is better: circuit switching or packet switching?
The choice between circuit switching and packet switching depends on the specific requirements of the communication. Circuit switching is preferable for real-time applications where constant, predictable delay is crucial, such as voice and video calls. On the other hand, packet switching is more suitable for data transmission, as it efficiently handles diverse traffic and provides better resource utilization.

2. Why is packet switching more commonly used today?
Packet switching is more commonly used today due to its flexibility, efficiency, and scalability. It can handle various data types, allows multiple data streams to share the same network resources, and adapts well to changing network conditions. Additionally, packet switching’s robustness against packet loss and its ability to reroute packets dynamically contribute to its widespread adoption, especially in modern data-centric applications and the Internet.

3. Is circuit switching obsolete?
While circuit switching is not obsolete, its usage has significantly reduced in comparison to packet switching, especially in data networks. Circuit switching is still prevalent in traditional telephone networks (PSTN) and some specialized applications that require dedicated connections and predictable delays. However, for most modern data communication, packet switching has become the preferred choice due to its advantages in handling diverse data traffic.

4. Can packet switching handle real-time applications?
While packet switching is not inherently designed for real-time applications, modern networks, and protocols have evolved to prioritize real-time data delivery. Techniques like Quality of Service (QoS) and the use of prioritization mechanisms in packet switching networks have improved the handling of real-time traffic, making it feasible for applications like VoIP and video conferencing.

5. What are the disadvantages of packet switching?
Packet switching’s main disadvantages include potential packet loss and variable delays (packet jitter). In congested networks or during periods of heavy traffic, packets may experience delays or be dropped. While protocols like TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) help with the retransmission of lost packets, it can still affect real-time applications and require network optimization efforts. Additionally, the need for packet headers in each unit can result in some overhead, especially for small data payloads. However, despite these drawbacks, packet switching’s advantages usually outweigh its disadvantages for modern data communication needs.

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