Virtual Circuit

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What Does Virtual Circuit Mean?

A virtual circuit is a physical path and destination for data packets in a packet switching environment. In a virtual circuit situation, intermediate nodes use routing directions to complete the path in specific ways, in order to accomplish the goals of system administrators.

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Techopedia Explains Virtual Circuit

Unlike datagram switching, virtual circuit switching sets out a data packet path in its own way, dynamically and on a case-by-case basis. Experts identify advantages of using a virtual circuit design, including fewer allocated resources, packets delivered in proper order, and reliable networking outputs. Think of the virtual circuit as a "smart" routing system that does not adhere to strict path rules. In that sense, the "virtual circuit" is flexible in a way that a traditional circuit printed on a circuit board is not.

In a practical sense, telecom companies may use virtual circuits to order packet sending. Generally, the virtual circuit allows each packet to travel the same path, which can help with effectiveness and also with billing. So the virtual circuit is a "dedicated pathway" for data packets. It is just not as restrictive as datagram switching.

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Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor
Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.