Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet (PPPoE)

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What is Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet (PPPoE)?

Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet (PPPoE) is a network protocol that provides a way for multiple users to connect to the internet over a single physical connection.

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PPPoE is documented in RFC 2516. The documentation provides details on how to encapsulate Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) packets in environments originally designed for Ethernet networks.

Techopedia Explains the PPPoE Meaning

Techopedia Explains PPPoE Meaning

PPP is an Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) layer 2 protocol that facilitates the use of multiple network layer protocols over a single physical link. Ethernet is a family of networking protocols that enable communication among devices on a local area network (LAN).

How Does PPPoE Work?

PPPoE combines PPP’s robust connection features with Ethernet’s scalable architecture by creating a unique point-to-point session for each user.

Technically, PPPoE encapsulates Point-to-Point Protocol frames within Ethernet frames. The encapsulation process allows multiple users to log in to the same ISP network, authenticate themselves, and maintain an internet connection that is logically separated from other users on the same network.

PPPoE connections require the Internet Service Provider to set up PPPoE servers to function properly. PPPoE servers are responsible for authentication, allocating IP addresses to clients, and managing sessions.

PPPoE Features

Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet is known for the way it helps ISPs manage individual internet connections and billing on shared broadband infrastructure.

The protocol’s key features include:

  • Broad Compatibility: Most current operating systems (OSes) include native support for PPPoE and allow users to manually configure PPPoE connections if their internet service requires it. Similarly, many routers and DSL modems available on the market today continue to offer PPPoE as a connection option.
  • Ease of Deployment: PPPoE can be deployed over any Ethernet network. This is especially beneficial in situations where upgrading to newer technologies would be prohibitively expensive or technically challenging.
  • Encapsulation of PPP Frames: PPPoE encapsulates PPP frames within Ethernet frames. The encapsulation allows PPP’s compression, encryption, and error-checking features to be used over Ethernet networks.
  • User Authentication: PPPoE supports Password Authentication Protocol (PAP) and Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP) authentication. PAP sends the user’s username and password to the authenticating server as plain text. CHAP uses an encrypted challenge-response mechanism which makes it more secure than PAP.
  • Session Management: Each PPPoE session is treated as a unique connection that can be initiated and terminated as needed. Before always-on internet connections were possible, ISPs used PPPoE’s session management capabilities to control network access on a per-user basis. This facilitated both personalized service delivery and billing.
  • Quality of Service (QoS): While PPPoE itself does not directly provide quality of service (QoS) mechanisms, its session-based nature allows ISPs to implement QoS policies at the network level. Essentially, this allowed ISPs to manage bandwidth allocation and ensure optimal performance for different types of internet services.

Use Cases

PPPoE was important during the early days of the Internet because it provided authentication and session management mechanisms for broadband connections – and it allowed Internet service providers (ISPs) to manage customer internet access and session billing over telephone infrastructure.

Although PPPoE use has declined significantly in recent years, the protocol is still used by Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) service providers in some parts of the world to connect users with the internet over existing telephone lines.

The continued use of the protocol has proven to be especially useful in geographical areas where the infrastructure for wireless, cable, and fiber optic connectivity is either not available or too expensive to implement.

How to Set Up PPPoE Manually

Setting up a PPPoE connection typically involves two steps: manually configuring a client device to use PPPoE for internet connectivity, and signing up with an Internet Service Provider that offers broadband internet access through the PPPoE protocol.

The exact steps can vary depending on the equipment and software being used, but here’s a general overview of how to set up PPPoE manually.

Setting Up PPPoE on a Router:

  • Access the router’s web interface.
  • Log in with the router’s admin username and password.
  • Navigate to the router’s Internet/WAN Settings.
  • Select PPPoE as the connection type.
  • Input the PPPoE username and password provided by your ISP.
  • If prompted, configure additional settings.
  • Save and apply changes.
  • Restart the router and test the internet connection to make sure it’s working correctly.

Setting Up PPPoE on a Desktop PC:

  • Access network settings from the computer’s control panel or system settings.
  • Look for an option to set up a new network connection or network.
  • Select the option for setting up a broadband PPPoE connection.
  • Enter the PPPoE credentials provided by your ISP.
  • Follow additional prompts. (At this time, you may be asked to name the connection and choose whether the computer should connect automatically to the internet during startup.)
  • Test your connection to the internet using your new PPPoE connection.

Setting up a PPPoE connection directly on a personal computer is less common today, primarily due to the widespread use of routers that manage network connections for multiple devices, but it still might be necessary in scenarios that involve connecting a single PC directly to a modem.

4 Best Practices for PPPoE Connections

4 Best Practices for PPPoE Connections

Network administrators and users can ensure their PPPoE connections are secure and reliable by following these four best practices for configuring and managing PPPoE connections:

  1. Secure Authentication Credentials: For enhanced security, select CHAP (Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol) over PAP (Password Authentication Protocol) if given the opportunity. CHAP can verify the identity of a remote client without actually sending the client’s password over the network.
  2. Optimize MTU Settings: The Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU) size can significantly impact network performance. PPPoE encapsulation adds overhead to each packet, and an incorrectly set MTU can cause packet fragmentation or packet loss, which in turn can lead to increased latency and reduced internet speed. The recommended Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU) size for PPPoE connections is typically 1492 bytes. Adjusting the MTU setting to match this recommendation can help optimize performance.
  3. Monitor and Manage Session Limits: PPPoE allows ISPs and network administrators to manage the number of concurrent sessions. Be proactive about monitoring session usage and set appropriate limits to prevent any single user from monopolizing network resources. Implementing session limits can also protect against unauthorized access and potential denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.
  4. Implement Quality of Service (QoS) Policies: Quality of Service policies can prioritize certain types of internet traffic to ensure that critical applications or certain users receive the bandwidth they need, even during high network congestion. By configuring QoS rules, administrators can optimize the user experience, prevent bandwidth hogging by certain individuals or non-essential applications, and maintain overall network performance.

Pros and Cons of PPPoE

PPPoE provides a secure way to connect multiple users to the internet, but the protocol’s overhead, complexity, and potential performance issues can present challenges.

The table below provides more detailed information about the Pros and Cons of using the PPPoE protocol.

Security User Management Network Layer Independence PPP Features Over Ethernet
Pros Provides authenticated connections. Allows multiple users to use the same broadband connection. Can use multiple network protocols to transport data. Delivers PPP’s robust compression, encryption, error checking features over Ethernet infrastructure.

Overhead Configuration & Management Performance
Cons Introduces overhead and limits the maximum transmission unit (MTU). Often requires manual configuration. Is not as scalable or efficient as newer technologies for high-speed, high-capacity needs.

PPPoE Alternatives

Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet played an important role in the early days of Internet expansion, but over the years, the networking landscape has changed.

Ethernet is no longer new, and more versatile and streamlined alternatives for PPPoE have emerged that reduce overhead on both the ISP and customer side. They include:

  • IPoE (IP over Ethernet): This is one of the most compelling alternatives to PPPoE because it removes the extra overhead introduced by Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet. Authentication, if needed, happens separately using protocols like RADIUS.
  • Layer 2 Tunneling: Network tunneling protocols like L2TP can be used in conjunction with IPsec to take the place of PPPoE. This facilitates the creation of secure, private “tunnels” on top of a more basic Internet connection.
  • Direct Ethernet and Newer Versions of DSL: Fiber optics, cable internet, and the latest DSL standards have built-in authentication and connection management capabilities. This makes an overlay solution like PPPoE redundant in many cases.
  • DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol): Now that routers are becoming smarter, DHCP is increasingly being used alongside PPPoE in DSL setups. This change has streamlined the network configuration process and reduced the need for manual setups.

PPPoE and DHCP

Today, a home network or small business LAN might use a PPPoE connector to access DSL internet services, and then use DHCP internally to automatically assign IP addresses to individual devices on the local area network.

This hybrid approach is a practical way to access DSL internet services in smaller network environments because it takes advantage of both protocols’ strengths.

Essentially, PPPoE handles the secure connection to the ISP and manages authentication and session control, while DHCP automates IP assignments and eliminates the need to manually configure each device.

FAQs

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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.