Discuss the differences between circuit-switched and packet-switched networks.

Circuit-switched and packet-switched networks are two fundamental approaches to handling communication in telecommunications. Each has its own set of characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. Let's delve into the details of both types:

Circuit-Switched Networks:

1. Dedicated Path:

  • In circuit-switched networks, a dedicated communication path is established between two devices for the entire duration of the conversation.
  • The path remains reserved exclusively for the communicating parties until the conversation ends.

2. Connection Establishment:

  • Before data transmission, a circuit must be established, involving a series of steps such as call setup, path reservation, and acknowledgment.
  • The connection remains active, even if no data is being transmitted, which can be inefficient for sporadic communication.

3. Resource Reservation:

  • Resources (bandwidth) are reserved for the entire duration of the call, even if no data is being transmitted. This can lead to inefficient resource utilization.

4. Predictable Latency:

  • Circuit-switched networks generally provide low and predictable latency since the dedicated path ensures a constant connection.

5. Examples:

  • Traditional telephone networks (PSTN - Public Switched Telephone Network) are a classic example of circuit-switched networks.

Packet-Switched Networks:

1. Dynamic Path:

  • In packet-switched networks, data is broken into packets, and each packet is transmitted independently.
  • Packets can take different routes to reach the destination and may not necessarily follow the same path.

2. Connectionless Communication:

  • Packet-switched networks are typically connectionless, meaning there is no dedicated path established before sending data. Each packet is treated independently.

3. Resource Sharing:

  • Resources are shared among multiple users, and bandwidth is allocated dynamically based on demand. This leads to more efficient resource utilization.

4. Variable Latency:

  • Latency can vary since packets may take different routes and may experience different levels of congestion or delays.

5. Examples:

  • The Internet is a prime example of a packet-switched network. TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) is the suite of protocols that governs communication over the Internet.


1. Efficiency:

  • Circuit-switched networks can be less efficient for bursty or sporadic communication, as resources are reserved for the entire call duration.
  • Packet-switched networks are generally more efficient, as resources are shared dynamically.

2. Scalability:

  • Packet-switched networks are more scalable and adaptable to varying loads and numbers of users.
  • Circuit-switched networks may face challenges in scaling, especially during peak usage periods.

3. Fault Tolerance:

  • Packet-switched networks offer better fault tolerance because if one route or link fails, packets can take an alternative path to reach the destination.
  • Circuit-switched networks may face disruptions if the dedicated path is compromised.

4. Cost:

  • Packet-switched networks are often more cost-effective due to efficient resource utilization.
  • Circuit-switched networks may be less cost-effective, especially for sporadic communication.