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Table of contents
1.
Introduction
2.
What is Switching?
3.
What is Circuit Switching?
3.1.
Advantages
3.2.
Disadvantages
4.
What is Packet Switching?
4.1.
Advantages
4.2.
Disadvantages
5.
Circuit Switching and Packet Switching Similarities
6.
Difference between Circuit Switching and Packet Switching
7.
Frequently Asked Questions
7.1.
What are circuit switching and packet switching?
7.2.
What is meant by circuit switching?
7.3.
What is packet switching with example?
7.4.
What is packet switching types?
8.
Conclusion
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024
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Difference between Circuit Switching and Packet Switching

Author SHIKHAR SONI
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Introduction

Circuit and packet switching are distinct approaches to transmitting data through a network. Circuit switching sets up a dedicated communication path between the sender and receiver for the entire communication. On the other hand, packet switching splits data into smaller packets and sends them independently, with each packet potentially taking a different route to the destination. Circuit switching is mainly utilized for voice communication, while packet switching is used for data communication, such as the Internet.

Difference between Circuit Switching and Packet Switching

Switching is a fundamentally essential part of a computer network to ensure proper data transfer. Before moving on to the Differences between Circuit Switching and Packet Switching, let's briefly revise them.

What is Switching?

Switching is transferring data between two points in a network, controlled by the nodes. This method involves using switches (nodes) that are used to connect devices that belong to the same Local Area Network (LAN).

There are three types of Switching methods:

  1. Circuit Switching
  2. Packet Switching
  3. Message Switching


We will only be focusing on Packet Switching and Circuit Switching in this article.

Also see, Switching Modes

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What is Circuit Switching?

This type of switching results in connection-oriented networks. A direct route is maintained between the sender and the receiver. This physical connection allows us to directly send messages from the sender to the receiver or vice versa. This type of communication is primarily helpful for continuous long-range communication with minimal delay.

Advantages

  1. There are lesser chances of data loss with a direct dedicated connection, and we can get a good quality connection.
  2. A fixed data rate for transfer is guaranteed because of the dedicated path connecting the end-users.
  3. No processing delay at the switches.
  4. The dedicated path in circuit switching provides a secure communication channel, reducing the risk of unauthorized access or eavesdropping.
  5. Circuit switching ensures a constant and uninterrupted connection, which means there is no delay or interruption during real-time communication. This is possible because the dedicated path reserved for communication prevents any network congestion or processing delays.

Disadvantages

  1. It consumes a fixed bandwidth, and the connection remains until the end-users terminate it.
  2. Others can’t use the dedicated path for communication, effectively limiting resources.
  3. It takes a significant amount of time to form a dedicated connection at the beginning of every connection.
  4. It can be inefficient because it reserves a dedicated path for communication even when there is no data to transfer. This wastes resources and results in poor utilization of available bandwidth.
  5. It has a limitation because it can't handle many users due to limited dedicated paths. As more users try to access the network, the connection quality degrades, causing delays and slow communication.

What is Packet Switching?

This method doesn’t involve a dedicated connection path between the sender and the receiver. In this method, we divide our data into smaller units called packets and send these packets to the receiver instead. Each packet of variable size is routed individually to the receiver. The receiver doesn’t necessarily receive these packets in order and must reorder them to get the original data back.

Advantages

  1. There’s no need to create a connection route first; hence, this method works wells when transmitting data.
  2. If for some reason, a problem is encountered, the switches can route the data packets appropriately and ensure a stable connection.
  3. Many users can use a common link at a time without a connection gobbling up more than their required bandwidth.
  4. Packet switching is an efficient way to use network bandwidth because many packets can be sent simultaneously over the network. 
  5. Packet switching is a scalable solution because it can deal with increasing user and network traffic by splitting data into smaller packets and transmitting them automatically over the network.

Disadvantages

  1. This method doesn’t work very well when we require the delay to be small and the service to be consistent.
  2. The packets can get delayed, dropped because of external reasons (such as overload or high traffic), and need to be resent the sender.
  3. If proper security protocols are not implemented, then it’s a potential security risk.
  4. Packet switching is more complex than circuit switching due to the need for packet headers and additional processing time on each switch. 
  5. The time taken to transmit packets between switches and reassemble them at the destination can result in significant latency or delay, affecting real-time applications such as voice or video calls.

Circuit Switching and Packet Switching Similarities

The following are some similarities between circuit and packet switching have:

  • Circuit switching and packet switching are two methods for allowing devices on a network to communicate with one another. 
     
  • Both can remotely transmit data from one computer to another within the same building or country. 
     
  • To ensure accurate and correct data transmission, both adhere to specific rules known as protocols. These protocols ensure that data does not get lost or corrupted on its way to its destination. 
     
  • Using circuit and packet switching, data can be transmitted via wires, fiber optics, or wireless signals. If multiple devices attempt to communicate at the same time, both have the potential to crash.
     
  • Both Circuit Switching and Packet Switching can handle multiple devices communicating with each other. 
     
  • Circuit Switching and Packet Switching can work with other network devices, like routers or firewalls, to make communication more secure and reliable. They have both improved as technology has improved, becoming faster and more dependable.

 

You can read related articles such as Congestion Control in Computer Networks here.

Difference between Circuit Switching and Packet Switching

Circuit Switching Packet Switching
A route is determined in advance for the transfer of information. There's no predetermined path, and the routers decide the route for the packets.
A fixed bandwidth is reserved during the setup phase of the connection. No fixed bandwidth is being consumed, allowing flexibility and increasing efficiency.
The order of data is maintained during the transfer. The order of data isn't guaranteed, and the receiver must ensure the correct order after receiving the packets.
It exists in the physical layer. It exists in the network layer.
Error correction is easier as a dedicated connection allows for retransmission. Error correction is more difficult as packets are sent independently.
Used for real-time communication, such as voice calls. Used for data transmissions such as email or file transfer
Example: Telephone Network Example: Internet

Frequently Asked Questions

What are circuit switching and packet switching?

Circuit switching and packet switching are two methods used to connect multiple devices. The key difference is that circuit switching is connection-oriented, while packet switching is connectionless. Circuit switching establishes a dedicated path for communication, while packet switching divides data into packets and sends them separately.

What is meant by circuit switching?

Circuit switching provides a dedicated communication channel between two devices for communication. This provides uninterrupted, private telephone-like high-level communication. It is often used for phone calls but may not be as effective as other forms of communication.

What is packet switching with example?

Packet switching sends data over a network by dividing it into smaller chunks called packets. Each packet contains a header with destination information. The packets are reassembled at the destination. The Internet is an example of a packet-switched network.

What is packet switching types?

There are two types of packet switching: Connectionless and Connection-Oriented. Connectionless packet switching, like UDP, sends packets independently without establishing a connection. Connection-oriented packet switching, like TCP, establishes a connection first and then sends packets in a specific order with error-checking.

Conclusion

The article covered two switching methods, Circuit Switching and Packet Switching. We discussed how these methods work and tried to understand how they can be effectively used under different circumstances to obtain good results.

Recommended Readings:


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