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Frame Relay

Frame Relay is a high-speed packet switching protocol used in wide area networks (WANs). Providing a granular service of up to DS3 speed (45 Mbps), it has become popular for LAN to LAN connections across remote distances, and services are offered by most major carriers.
Frame relay (FR) is much faster than X.25, the first packet-switched WAN standard, because frame relay was designed for reliable circuits and performs less error detection . Frame relay does not process the packets; it relays them from the switch's input port to the output port, hence the name.

The Frame Relay frame is transmitted to its destination by way of virtual circuits (logical paths from an originating point in the network) to a destination point. Virtual circuits may be permanent (PVCs) or switched (SVCs). PVCs are set up administratively by the network manager for a dedicated point-to-point connection; SVCs are set up on a call-by-call basis.

Frame Relay is an example of a packet-switched technology. Packet-switched networks enable end stations to dynamically share the network medium and the available bandwidth. The following two techniques are used in packet-switching technology:

  • Variable-length packets

  • Statistical multiplexing

Variable-length packets are used for more efficient and flexible data transfers. These packets are switched between the various segments in the network until the destination is reached.

Statistical multiplexing techniques control network access in a packet-switched network. The advantage of this technique is that it accommodates more flexibility and more efficient use of bandwidth. Most of today's popular LANs, such as Ethernet and Token Ring, are packet-switched networks.

Advantages of Frame Relay:

Frame Relay offers an attractive alternative to both dedicated lines and X.25 networks for connecting LANs to bridges and routers. The success of the Frame Relay protocol is based on the following two underlying factors:

  • Because virtual circuits consume bandwidth only when they transport data, many virtual circuits can exist simultaneously across a given transmission line. In addition, each device can use more of the bandwidth as necessary, and thus operate at higher speeds.

  • The improved reliability of communication lines and increased error-handling sophistication at end stations allows the Frame Relay protocol to discard erroneous frames and thus eliminate time-consuming error-handling processing.


Frame Relay Resources:

Cisco Frame Relay Tutorial

Frame relay protocol

Frame Relay FAQ

Frame Relay Overview