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circuit switching(CS) vs packet switching(PS) networks | difference between circuit switching and packet switching

This page circuit switching vs packet switching describes difference between circuit switching(CS) and packet switching(PS).

This tutorial covers everything one like to know about networking basics including circuit switching vs packet switching, TCP/IP protocol fields, ARP/RARP protocol fields, what is IP address ,what is MAC address, networking devices which include hub, switch, bridge, router, gateway and firewall.

Circuit Switching

In circuit switching network dedicated channel has to be established before the call is made between users. The channel is reserved between the users till the connection is active. For half duplex communication, one channel is allocated and for full duplex communication, two channels are allocated. It is mainly used for voice communication requiring real time services without any much delay.
circuit switching(CS) vs packet switching(PS) fig1
As shown in the figure 1, if user-A wants to use the network; it need to first ask for the request to obtain the one and then user-A can communicate with user-C. During the connection phase if user-B tries to call/communicate with user-D or any other user it will get busy signal from the network.

Packet Switching

In packet switching network unlike CS network, it is not required to establish the connection initially. The connection/channel is available to use by many users. But when capacity or number of users increases then it will lead to congestion in the network. Packet switched networks are mainly used for data and voice applications requiring non-real time scenarios.
circuit switching vs packet switching fig2
As shown in the figure 2, if user-A wants to send data/information to user-C and if user-B wants to send data to user-D, it is simultaneously possible. Here information is padded with header which contains addresses of source and destination. This header is sniffed by intermediate switching nodes to determine their route and destination.

In packet switching, station breaks long message into packets. Packets are sent one at a time to the network. Packets are handled in two ways, viz. datagram and virtual circuit.

In datagram, each packet is treated independently. Packets can take up any practical route. Packets may arrive out of order and may go missing.

In virtual circuit, preplanned route is established before any packets are transmitted. The handshake is established using call request and call accept messages. Here each packet contains virtual circuit identifier(VCI) instead of the destination address. In this type, routing decisions for each packet are not needed.

Comparison between CS vs. PS networks

As shown above in Packet switched (PS) networks quality of service (QoS) is not guaranteed while in circuit switched (CS) networks quality is guaranteed.
PS is used for time insensitive applications such as internet/email/SMS/MMS/VOIP etc.
In CS even if user is not talking the channel cannot be used by any other users, this will waste the resource capacity at those intervals.
The example of circuit switched network is PSTN and example of packet switched network is GPRS/EDGE.

Following table summarizes difference between circuit switching and packet switching of type datagram and virtual circuit.


Circuit Switching Packet Switching(Datagram type) Packet Switching(Virtual Circuit type)
Dedicated path No Dedicated path No Dedicated path
Path is established for entire conversation Route is established for each packet Route is established for entire conversation
Call setup delay packet transmission delay call setup delay as well as packet transmission delay
Overload may block call setup Overload increases packet delay Overload may block call setup and increases packet delay
Fixed bandwidth Dynamic bandwidth Dynamic bandwidth
No overhead bits after call setup overhead bits in each packet overhead bits in each packet

Difference between packet switching and message switching

Refer packet switching vs message switching which mentions difference between packet switching and message switching types.


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Useful Links

• Basics of OSI and TCP-IP Layers
• Circuit Switched Call vs Packet Switched Call
• LAN vs WAN vs MAN
• What is an IP address
• What is MAC Address
• What is Hub
• What is Switch
• What is Bridge
• What is Router
• What is Gateway
• Firewall basics
• TCP-IP Packet format
• ARP Protocol format


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