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Chapter: Computer Networks : Data Link Layer

High-level Data Link Control (HDLC)

High-level Data Link Control (HDLC) is a bit-oriented protocol for communication over point-to-point and multipoint links.



High-level Data Link Control (HDLC) is a bit-oriented protocol for communication over point-to-point and multipoint links. Configurations and transfer modes HDLC provides two common transfer modes that can be used in different configurations: normal response mode (NRM) and asynchronous balanced mode (ABM).


a. Normal Response Mode

In normal response mode (NRM), the station configuration is unbalanced. We have one primary station and multiple secondary stations. A primary station can send commands; a secondary station can only respond. The NRM is used for both point-to-point and multiple-point links.


b.   Asynchronous Balanced Mode


In asynchronous balanced mode (ABM), the configuration is balanced. The link is point-to-point, and each station can function as a primary and a secondary (acting as peers). This is the common mode today.



1. Frames:

HDLC defines three types of frames: information frames (I-frames), supervisory frames (S-frames), and unnumbered frames (U-frames). I-frames are used to transport user data and control information relating to user data (piggybacking). S-frames are used only to transport control information. U-frames are reserved for system management. Information carried by U-frames is intended for managing the link itself.


Frame Format


Each frame in HDLC may contain up to six fields, a beginning flag field, an address field, a control field, an information field, a frame check sequence (FCS) field, and an ending flag field. In multiple-frame transmissions, the ending flag of one frame can serve as the beginning flag of the next frame.


Figure 2.25 HDLC Frames




Let us now discuss the fields and their use in different frame types.


Flag field. The flag field of an HDLC frame is an 8-bit sequence with the bit pattern01111110 that identifies both the beginning and the end of a frame and serves as a synchronization pattern for the receiver.


Address field. The second field of an HDLC frame contains the address of the secondarystation. If a primary station created the frame, it contains a to address. If a secondary creates the frame, it contains a from address. An address field can be 1 byte or several bytes long, depending on the needs of the network. One byte can identify up to 128 stations.


Control field. The control field is a 1- or 2-byte segment of the frame used for flow anderror control. The interpretation of bits in this field depends on the frame type. We discuss this field later and describe its format for each frame type.


Information field. The information field contains the user's data from the network layer ormanagement information. Its length can vary from one network to another.


FCS field. The frame check sequence (FCS) is the HDLC error detection field. It cancontain either a 2- or 4-byte ITU-T CRC.


2. Control Field


The control field determines the type of frame and defines its functionality. The format is specific for the type of frame.


a.   Control Field for I-Frames


I-frames are designed to carry user data from the network layer. The subfields in the control field are used to define these functions. The first bit defines the type. If the first bit of the control field is 0, this means the frame is an I-frame. The next 3 bits, called N(S), define the sequence number of the frame.

Figure 2.26 Control field format for the different frame types


b.   Control Field for S-Frames


Supervisory frames are used for flow and error control whenever piggybacking is either impossible or inappropriate. S-frames do not have information fields. If the first 2 bits of the control field is 10, this means the frame is an S-frame. The last 3 bits, called N(R), corresponds to the acknowledgment number (ACK) or negative acknowledgment number (NAK) depending on the type of S-frame. The 2 bits called code is used to define the type of S-frame itself.


c.   Control Field for V-Frames


Unnumbered frames are used to exchange session management and control information between connected devices. Unlike S-frames, U-frames contain an information field, but one used for system management information, not user data. U-frame codes are divided into two sections: a 2-bit prefix before the P/F bit and a 3-bit suffix after the P/F bit. Together, these two segments (5 bits) can be used to create up to 32 different types of U-frames.


Example 2.6: Connection/Disconnection


Node A asks for a connection with a set asynchronous balanced mode (SABM) frame; node B gives a positive response with an unnumbered acknowledgment (VA) frame. After these two exchanges, data can be transferred between the two nodes (not shown in the figure). After data transfer, node A sends a DISC (disconnect) frame to release the connection; it is confirmed by node B responding with a VA (unnumbered acknowledgment).


Figure 2.27 Example for connection and disconnection


Example 2.7: Piggybacking without Error


Node A begins the exchange of information with an I-frame numbered 0 followed by another I-frame numbered 1. Node B piggybacks its acknowledgment of both frames onto an I-frame of its own. Node B's first I-frame is also numbered 0 [N(S) field] and contains a 2 in its N(R) field, acknowledging the receipt of Ns frames 1 and 0 and indicating that it expects frame 2 to arrive next. Node B transmits its second and third I-frames (numbered 1 and 2) before accepting further frames from node A. Its N(R) information, therefore, has not changed: B frames 1 and 2 indicate that node B is still expecting Ns frame 2 to arrive next. Node A has sent all its data.

Therefore, it cannot piggyback an acknowledgment onto an I-frame and sends an S-frame instead. The RR code indicates that A is still ready to receive. The number 3 in the N(R) field tells B that frames 0, 1 & 2 have all been accepted and that A is now expecting frame number 3.


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