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Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)

Reviewed by Justin StoltzfusCheckmark | Last updated: February 2, 2021

What Does Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) Mean?

Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) is the language a computer uses to access the internet. It consists of a suite of protocols designed to establish a network of networks to provide a host with access to the internet.

TCP/IP is responsible for full-fledged internet data connectivity and transmitting the data end to end by providing other functions, including addressing, mapping and acknowledgment. TCP/IP contains four layers, which differ slightly from the OSI model.

The technology is so common that one would rarely use the full name. In other words, in common usage the acronym is now the term itself.

OSI model vs. TCP IP model

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Techopedia Explains Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)

Nearly all computers today support TCP/IP. TCP/IP is not a single networking protocol – it is a suite of protocols named after the two most important protocols or layers within it – Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol.

As with any form of communication, two things are needed: a message to transmit and the means to reliably transmit the message. The TCP layer handles the message part. The message is broken down into smaller units, called packets, which are then transmitted over the network. The packets are received by the corresponding TCP layer in the receiver and reassembled into the original message.

The IP layer is primarily concerned with the transmission portion. This is done by means of a unique IP address assigned to each and every active recipient on the network.

In other words, when a message is sent, it is broken into many packets that must reach their destination. The IP portion of the TCP/IP makes sure they arrive at the correct location by traversing different paths. Each packet is forwarded through all gateway nodes on the network by checking the IP address of the receiver.

The TCP portion first ensures that the connection between sender and receiver is maintained from before the first packet is sent to after the last one is reassembled. The TCP is then responsible for assembling all the packets in the right order, requesting missing packets to be sent back, and then provides a confirmation to the sender that the message was received correctly.

TCP/IP is considered a stateless protocol suite because each client connection is newly made without regard to whether a previous connection had been established.

Common protocols of TCP/IP include the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol(HTTP) and Secure HTTP (HTTPS) to handle communication between a web browser and a web server, and the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to handle transmission of data between computers.

TCP/IP models are divided in four layers:

  • Application Layer: Handles the details of communication at the application level.

  • Transport Layer: Establishes and maintains a data connection and exchange between two devices.

  • Network Layer: Also known as the internet layer, it handles the movement of packets around the network and across other networks.

  • Physical Layer: It handles the physical parts of the communication between hosts within the same network using wireless connections, ethernet cables, and so on. It is also called the data link layer or interface layer.

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