Ethernet is a set of technologies and protocols that are used primarily in LANs. It was first standardized in 1980s by IEEE 802.3 standard. IEEE 802.3 defines the physical layer and the medium access control (MAC) sub-layer of the data link layer for wired Ethernet networks. Ethernet is classified into two categories: classic Ethernet and switched Ethernet.
Classic Ethernet is the original form of Ethernet that provides data rates between 3 to 10 Mbps. The varieties are commonly referred as 10BASE-X. Here, 10 is the maximum throughput, i.e. 10 Mbps, BASE denoted use of baseband transmission, and X is the type of medium used. Most varieties of classic Ethernet have become obsolete in present communication scenario.
A switched Ethernet uses switches to connect to the stations in the LAN. It replaces the repeaters used in classic Ethernet and allows full bandwidth utilization.
There are a number of versions of IEEE 802.3 protocol. The most popular ones are -
IEEE 802.3: This was the original standard given for 10BASE-5. It used a thick single coaxial cable into which a connection can be tapped by drilling into the cable to the core. Here, 10 is the maximum throughput, i.e. 10 Mbps, BASE denoted use of baseband transmission, and 5 refers to the maximum segment length of 500m.
IEEE 802.3a: This gave the standard for thin coax (10BASE-2), which is a thinner variety where the segments of coaxial cables are connected by BNC connectors. The 2 refers to the maximum segment length of about 200m (185m to be precise).
IEEE 802.3i: This gave the standard for twisted pair (10BASE-T) that uses unshielded twisted pair (UTP) copper wires as physical layer medium. The further variations were given by IEEE 802.3u for 100BASE-TX, 100BASE-T4 and 100BASE-FX.
IEEE 802.3i: This gave the standard for Ethernet over Fiber (10BASE-F) that uses fiber optic cables as medium of transmission.
The main fields of a frame of classic Ethernet are -
Preamble: It is the starting field that provides alert and timing pulse for transmission. In case of classic Ethernet it is an 8 byte field and in case of IEEE 802.3 it is of 7 bytes.
Start of Frame Delimiter: It is a 1 byte field in a IEEE 802.3 frame that contains an alternating pattern of ones and zeros ending with two ones.
Destination Address: It is a 6 byte field containing physical address of destination stations.
Source Address: It is a 6 byte field containing the physical address of the sending station.
Length: It a 7 bytes field that stores the number of bytes in the data field.
Data: This is a variable sized field carries the data from the upper layers. The maximum size of data field is 1500 bytes.
Padding: This is added to the data to bring its length to the minimum requirement of 46 bytes.
CRC: CRC stands for cyclic redundancy check. It contains the error detection information.