Wednesday, 18 March 2015

DCN - Physical Layer Introduction

Physical layer in the OSI model plays the role of interacting with actual hardware and signaling mechanism. Physical layer is the only layer of OSI network model which actually deals with the physical connectivity of two different stations. This layer defines the hardware equipment, cabling, wiring, frequencies, pulses used to represent binary signals etc.
Physical layer provides its services to Data-link layer. Data-link layer hands over frames to physical layer. Physical layer converts them to electrical pulses, which represent binary data.The binary data is then sent over the wired or wireless media.


When data is sent over physical medium, it needs to be first converted into electromagnetic signals. Data itself can be analog such as human voice, or digital such as file on the disk.Both analog and digital data can be represented in digital or analog signals.
  • Digital Signals
    Digital signals are discrete in nature and represent sequence of voltage pulses. Digital signals are used within the circuitry of a computer system.
  • Analog Signals
    Analog signals are in continuous wave form in nature and represented by continuous electromagnetic waves.

Transmission Impairment

When signals travel through the medium they tend to deteriorate. This may have many reasons as given:
  • Attenuation
    For the receiver to interpret the data accurately, the signal must be sufficiently strong.When the signal passes through the medium, it tends to get weaker.As it covers distance, it loses strength.
  • Dispersion
    As signal travels through the media, it tends to spread and overlaps. The amount of dispersion depends upon the frequency used.
  • Delay distortion
    Signals are sent over media with pre-defined speed and frequency. If the signal speed and frequency do not match, there are possibilities that signal reaches destination in arbitrary fashion. In digital media, this is very critical that some bits reach earlier than the previously sent ones.
  • Noise
    Random disturbance or fluctuation in analog or digital signal is said to be Noise in signal, which may distort the actual information being carried. Noise can be characterized in one of the following class:
    • Thermal Noise
      Heat agitates the electronic conductors of a medium which may introduce noise in the media. Up to a certain level, thermal noise is unavoidable.
    • Intermodulation
      When multiple frequencies share a medium, their interference can cause noise in the medium. Intermodulation noise occurs if two different frequencies are sharing a medium and one of them has excessive strength or the component itself is not functioning properly, then the resultant frequency may not be delivered as expected.
    • Crosstalk
      This sort of noise happens when a foreign signal enters into the media. This is because signal in one medium affects the signal of second medium.
    • Impulse
      This noise is introduced because of irregular disturbances such as lightening, electricity, short-circuit, or faulty components. Digital data is mostly affected by this sort of noise.

Transmission Media

The media over which the information between two computer systems is sent, called transmission media. Transmission media comes in two forms.
  • Guided Media
    All communication wires/cables are guided media, such as UTP, coaxial cables, and fiber Optics. In this media, the sender and receiver are directly connected and the information is send (guided) through it.
  • Unguided Media
    Wireless or open air space is said to be unguided media, because there is no connectivity between the sender and receiver. Information is spread over the air, and anyone including the actual recipient may collect the information.

Channel Capacity

The speed of transmission of information is said to be the channel capacity. We count it as data rate in digital world. It depends on numerous factors such as:
  • Bandwidth:  The physical limitation of underlying media.
  • Error-rate:  Incorrect reception of information because of noise.
  • Encoding:  The number of levels used for signaling.


Multiplexing is a technique to mix and send multiple data streams over a single medium. This technique requires system hardware called multiplexer (MUX) for multiplexing the streams and sending them on a medium, and de-multiplexer (DMUX) which takes information from the medium and distributes to different destinations.


Switching is a mechanism by which data/information sent from source towards destination which are not directly connected. Networks have interconnecting devices, which receives data from directly connected sources, stores data, analyze it and then forwards to the next interconnecting device closest to the destination.
Switching can be categorized as:

Physical Layer
Physical layer is concerned with transmitting raw bits over a communication channel. The design issues have to do with making sure that when one side sends a 1 bit, it is recieved by the other side as 1 bit and not as 0 bit. In physical layer we deal with the communication medium used for transmission.
Types of Medium
Medium can be classified into 2 categories.
1.     Guided Media : Guided media means that signals is guided  by the prescence of physical media i.e. signals are under control and remains in the physical wire. For eg. copper wire.
2.     Unguided Media : Unguided Media means that there is no physical path for the signal to propogate. Unguided media are essentially electro-magnetic waves. There is no control on flow of signal. For eg. radio waves.
Communication Links
In a nework nodes are connected through links. The communication through links can be classified as
1.     Simplex : Communication can take place only in one direction. eg. T.V broadcasting.
2.     Half-duplex : Communication can take place in one direction at a time. Suppose node A and B are connected then half-duplex communication means that at a time data can flow from A to B or from B to A but not simultaneously. eg. two persons talking to each other such that when speaks the other listens and vice versa.
3.     Full-duplex : Communication can take place simultaneously in both directions. eg. A discussion in a group without discipline.
Links can be further classified as
1.     Point to Point : In this communication only two nodes are connected to each other. When a node sends a packet then it can be recieved only by the node on the other side and none else.
2.     Multipoint : It is a kind of sharing communication, in which signal can be recieved by all nodes. This is also called broadcast.
Generally two kind of problems are associated in transmission of signals.
1.     Attenuation : When a signal transmitts in a network then the quality of signal degrades as the signal travels longer distances in the wire. This is called attenuation. To improve quality of signal amplifiers are used at regular distances.
2.     Noise : In a communication channel many signals transmits simultaneously, certain random signals are also present in the medium. Due to interference of these signals our signal gets disrupted a bit.
Bandwidth simply means how many bits can be transmitted per second in the communication channel. In technical terms it indicates the width of frequency spectrum.
Transmission Media
Guided Transmission Media
In Guided transmission media generally two kind of materials are used.
1.     Copper
o    Coaxial Cable
o    Twisted Pair
2.     Optical Fiber
1.     Coaxial Cable: Coaxial cable consists of an inner conductor and an outer conductor which are seperated by an insulator. The inner conductor is usually copper. The outer conductor is covered by a plastic jacket. It is named coaxial because the two conductors are coaxial. Typical diameter of coaxial cable lies between 0.4 inch to 1 inch. The most application of coaxial cable is cable T.V. The coaxial cable has high bandwidth, attenuation is less.

2.     Twisted Pair: A Twisted pair consists of two insulated copper wires, typically 1mm thick. The wires are twisted togather in a helical form the purpose of twisting is to reduce cross talk interference between several pairs. Twisted Pair is much cheaper then coaxial cable but it is susceptible to noise and electromagnetic interference and attenuation is large.

Twisted Pair can be further classified in two categories:
Unshielded twisted pair:
 In this no insulation is provided, hence they are susceptible to interference.
Shielded twisted pair:
 In this a protective thick insulation is provided but shielded twisted pair is expensive and not commonly used.
The most common application of twisted pair is the telephone system. Nearly all telephones are connected to the telephone company office by a twisted pair. Twisted pair can run several kilometers without amplification, but for longer distances repeaters are needed. Twisted pairs can be used for both analog and digital transmission. The bandwidth depends on the thickness of wire and the distance travelled. Twisted pairs are generally limited in distance, bandwidth and data rate.
3.     Optical Fiber: In optical fiber light is used to send data. In general terms prescence of light is taken as bit 1 and its absence as bit 0. Optical fiber consists of inner core of either glass or plastic. Core is surrounded by cladding of the same material but of different refrective index. This cladding is surrounded by a plastic jacket which prevents optical fiber from electromagnetic interferrence and harshy environments. It uses the principle of total internal reflection to transfer data over optical fibers. Optical fiber is much better in bandwidth as compared to copper wire, since there is hardly any attenuation or electromagnetic interference in optical wires. Hence there is less requirement to improve quality of signal, in long distance transmission. Disadvantage of optical fiber is that end points are fairly expensive. (eg. switches)
Differences between different kinds of optical fibers:
1.     Depending on material
§  Made of glass
§  Made of plastic.
2.     Depending on radius
§  Thin optical fiber
§  Thick optical fiber
3.     Depending on light source
§  LED (for low bandwidth)
§  Injection lased diode (for high bandwidth)
Wireless Transmission
1.     Radio: Radio is a general term that is used for any kind of frequency. But higher frequencies are usually termed as microwave and the lower frequency band comes under radio frequency. There are many application of radio. For eg. cordless keyboard, wireless LAN, wireless ethernet. but it is limited in range to only a few hundred meters. Depending on frequency radio offers different bandwidths.
2.     Terrestrial microwave: In terrestrial microwave two antennas are used for communication. A focused beam emerges from an antenna and is recieved by the other antenna, provided that antennas should be facing each other with no obstacle in between. For this reason antennas are situated on high towers. Due to curvature of earth terristial microwave can be used for long distance communication with high bandwidth. Telecom department is also using this for long distance communication. An advantage of wireless communication is that it is not required to lay down wires in the city hence no permissions are required.

3.     Satellite communication: Satellite acts as a switch in sky. On earth VSAT(Very Small Aperture Terminal) are used to transmit and recieve data from satellite. Generally one station on earth transmitts signal to satellite and it is recieved by many stations on earth. Satellite communication is generally used in those places where it is very difficult to obtain line of sight i.e. in highly irregular terristial regions. In terms of noise wireless media is not as good as the wired media. There are frequency band in wireless communication and two stations should not be allowed to transmit simultaneously in a frequency band. The most promising advantage of satellite is broadcasting. If satellites are used for point to point communication then they are expensive as compared to wired media.