Broadcast Network Definition

This type of network has a single communication channel that is shared by all the machines on the network. Short messages, called packets in certain contexts, sent by any machine are received by all the others. An address field within the packet specifies for whom it is intended. Upon receiving a packet, a machine checks the address field. If the packet is intended for itself, it processes the packet; if is intended for some other machine, it is just ignored.

As an analogy, consider someone standing at the end of a corridor with many rooms off it and shouting, “Watson, come here. I want you.” Although the packet may actually be received (heard) by many people, only Watson responds. The others just ignore it. Another example is an airport announcement asking all flight 644 passengers to report to gate 12.

Broadcast systems generally also allow the possibility of addressing a packet to all destinations by using a special code in the address field. When a packet with this code is transmitted, it is receive and processed by every machine on the network. This mode of operation is called broadcasting. Some broadcast systems also support transmission to a subset of the machines, something known as multicasting.

Related Terms

  • Point-to-Point Network

Other Definitions

Computer Networks by Andrew S. Tanenbaum

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