Basics of Network Protocols – TCP/IP, UDP, Wireless and Many More

Network protocols are the international standards or conventions that define some rules for effective communication between the computers on the network. They not only set the rules, but they also determine how data will be divided and sent among the devices. These protocols can be implemented either in the hardware or software. There are three broad sections of network protocols, i.e., Internet protocol, Wireless network protocols and Internet routing protocols.

One example of the network protocol is the TCP/IP protocol that defines how to exchange information at the packet level with the other network end points. It is built to be independent of the networking hardware and that is why all different kind of devices, irrespective of make and type can still communicate with each other.


The working of these network protocols is difficult to understand. But it is the need of today to have a basic idea about how protocols function. This article will talk about the basics of network protocol. Hopefully, post reading this article, words like internet protocols, routing protocols won’t feel blurry to you anymore.

Internet protocols (IP)

These are the standards that define the working of the internet. Internet Protocol defines how the data gets transmitted over the internet. They are responsible for the delivery of packets across the network boundaries, and they work closely with other protocols like HTTP, UDP, TCP, etc.

The routing functions of the IP enable internet working and essentially establish the internet. IP also defines the addressing system. The primary function of the IP includes.

  • IP provides a mechanism to address the host machines.
  • It defines protocol for enclosing data into datagrams also known as packets.
  • IP routes datagrams from the host to the destination.

The IP suite has several other protocols, and some of them are necessary for the proper functioning of the internet because IP alone cannot do all the work alone. The other commonly used protocols are.

TCP (Transmission Control Protocol)

It is one of the main network protocols of the IP suite, and it is responsible for the delivery of packets from the source to the destination. It complements the network protocol. Thus, the entire suite is collectively referred to as the TCP/IP protocol. The TCP provides the following functionalities. (1)

  • To establish a secure connection between the two endpoints. For this, TCP uses a three-way handshake.
  • To terminate the connection between the devices. Generally a 4-way handshake does this termination, but it is also possible to do it with the three-way handshake.
  • TCP also detects the errors if any in the packets. To assure the validity of the packets checksum field is included in the packets. The TCP’s checksum is weak by modern standards. It is to remember that TCP is optimized for errorfree delivery rather than timely delivery and so it can incur relatively long delays while waiting for re-transmissions of lost messages or even out-of-order messages.
  • TCP also controls the flow of the packets. It is necessary to have a flow control mechanism in an environment where machines with different network speed communicate.

Other functions of TCP include congestion control, reliable transmission, data transfer, etc.

UDP (User datagram protocol)

UDP is one the core member of the IP suite; it is somewhat similar to TCP, but TCP was connection-oriented protocol, but UDP is a connectionless protocol with less mechanism. The packets of data are called datagrams in UDP. There is no guarantee of delivery of packets, and duplicate packets can exist.

This protocol is suitable for transferring of data in which error checking and data correction are not necessary. In such cases, error checking is done in the application.

SMTP (Simple mail transfer protocol)

SMTP is the principal used for electronic mail transmission. It is the underlying protocol that makes the sending and retrieving of emails possible. Although the emails are sent with the help of this protocol, they are extracted with the other protocols like POP or IMAP. The primary function of the SMTP is to send and receive emails.

HTTP (Hypertext transfer protocol)

HTTP is the acronym used for hypertext transfer protocol and primarily used by worldwide web. It is one of the primary network protocols which defines how the messages will be formatted and transferred between the endpoints of the network and how the web browser and the web servers will react to different commands.

HTTPS, the other version of HTTP is more common in use. It stands for Hypertext transfer protocol secure and is the secured version of HTTP. The data sent over HTTP is not encrypted, but the data transmitted of HTTPS is encrypted.

Given that the list of protocols of IP categories is quite long, it is not possible to mention each of them here. Some of the other common ones are FTP, FTPS, SSH, SSL, POP, etc.

Wireless network protocols

Wireless networking protocols define the standards that make the sharing of data possible in a wireless network. Some of the most common wireless network protocols are WIFI, LTE, etc. The network nowadays supports a variety of wireless network protocol.

The some of the widely used wireless protocols are.

  • LTE (Long-term evolution) – Phones uses the LTE technology mostly. LTE can easily send around 100mbps of data with low data rates and solves the problem of roaming. It can work efficiently with the old phone protocols. The companies have upgraded all cell towers and another network device to support 4G and standardize LTE.
  • WIFI– People often confuse wireless network as WIFI. It is closely related to the wireless network. WIFI is a wireless network protocol that can work up to short ranges, but they can be made to work for long distance also. The WIFI is limited to a resident or maybe a building. Introduction of WIFI has led to a significant decrease in the data rates and increased speed. WIFI speeds are lower than some other wireless protocols.
  • Bluetooth– It is one of the oldest wireless network protocols, and it is still widely used. They work in even shorter distances then WIFI and the data transfer speed is also very less. Bluetooth requires very less power to operate as compared to other protocols.

Internet routing protocols

Routing network protocols define how the routers are going to route the traffic around the network. They delineate how the router will communicate with each other. This communication helps the routers in selecting the route between any two nodes on the network. Routing algorithms are responsible for this route selection.

The preeminent objective of the routing protocols is to find the optimum path for the delivery of data. Although there are many internet routing protocols, following three of them are most common.

  • Link state routing protocols
  • Distance vector routing protocols
  • Exterior gateway protocol

Note- The first two protocols are interior gateway protocols.

Need for network protocols

Connecting several devices in a network cannot work on their own. They needs a way to communicate among them. That’s where network protocols come into picture. Network protocols are the language by which the all devices on a network communicate with each other. Without the network protocol computers won’t have the ability to understand the other machines. Beside they provide mechanism to format rules that specify how data is packaged in to datagrams or packets and sent and received. Network protocols are responsible for following functions.

  • Addressing of the recipient.
  • Delivering data to the destination from the host in a secure manner.
  • Receive messages and sent the appropriate response.

It is the network protocols which made the modernization of the Internet possible. Such protocols allow devices to communicate with other network devices without having to know what is happening in the background.


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