Network Layer

Last Updated: September 7, 2011

Definition - What does Network Layer mean?

The network layer is the third level of the Open Systems Interconnection Model (OSI Model) and the layer that provides data routing paths for network communication. Data is transferred in the form of packets via logical network paths in an ordered format controlled by the network layer.

Logical connection setup, data forwarding, routing and delivery error reporting are the network layer’s primary responsibilities.

Techopedia explains Network Layer

The network layer is considered the backbone of the OSI Model. It selects and manages the best logical path for data transfer between nodes. This layer contains hardware devices such as routers, bridges, firewalls and switches, but it actually creates a logical image of the most efficient communication route and implements it with a physical medium.

Network layer protocols exist in every host or router. The router examines the header fields of all the IP packets that pass through it.

Internet Protocol and Netware IPX/SPX are the most common protocols associated with the network layer.

In the OSI model, the network layer responds to requests from the layer above it (transport layer) and issues requests to the layer below it (data link layer).

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