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circuit switching
Last modified: Friday, May 03, 2002 

A type of communications in which a dedicated channel (or circuit) is established for the duration of a transmission. The most ubiquitous circuit-switching network is the telephone system, which links together wire segments to create a single unbroken line for each telephone call.

The other common communications method is packet switching, which divides messages into packets and sends each packet individually. The Internet is based on a packet-switching protocol, TCP/IP.

Circuit-switching systems are ideal for communications that require data to be transmitted in real-time. Packet-switching networks are more efficient if some amount of delay is acceptable.

Circuit-switching networks are sometimes called connection-oriented networks. Note, however, that although packet switching is essentially connectionless, a packet switching network can be made connection-oriented by using a higher-level protocol. TCP, for example, makes IP networks connection-oriented.

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