Network Communication Protocols

The interconnection of systems and computer networks is the foundation of communications today and is designed using multiple communication protocols. For example, there are many protocols when establishing an internet connection and depending on the type that needs to be established, these protocols will vary. Furthermore, communication with the Internet is not the only type of communication when we refer to data transmission and exchange of messages across networks. In all cases, network protocols define the characteristics of the connection.

A protocol is a set of rules: the network protocols are formal standards and policies, made up of restrictions, procedures, and formats, that define the exchange of data packets to achieve communication between two servers or more devices over a network.

Network protocols include mechanisms for device identification and the establishment of connections between them, as well as formatting rules that specify how packets and data are structured in messages that are sent and received. Some protocols support message recognition and data compression, designed for reliable, high-performance network communication.


Types of Network Protocols

The most important protocols for data transmission across the Internet are TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and IP (Internet Protocol). Using these jointly (TCP/IP), we can link devices that access the network; some other communication protocols associated with the Internet are POP, SMTP and HTTP.

We use these practically every day, although most users don't know it, and don't understand how they work. These protocols allow the transfer of data from our devices so that we can browse websites, send emails, listen to music online, etc.


There are several types of network protocols:


  • Network communication protocols: Basic packet communication protocols such as TCP/IP and HTTP.
  • Network security protocols: they implement security in network communications between servers; includes HTTPS, SSL, and SFTP.
  • Network management protocols: these provide network maintenance and governance, they include SNMP and ICMP.

A group of network protocols that work together at the top and bottom levels are commonly referred to as a protocol family.


The OSI model (Open System Interconnection) conceptually organizes network protocol families into specific network layers. This Open System Interconnection aims to establish a context to base the communication architectures between different systems.

Below we list some of the best known network protocols, according to the layers of the OSI model:

Layer 1 Protocols - Physical Layer

  • USB: Universal Serial Bus
  • Ethernet: Ethernet physical layer
  • DSL: Digital subscriber line
  • Etherloop: Ethernet and DSL combination
  • Infrared: Infrared radiation
  • Frame Relay
  • SDH: Synchronous Digital Hierarchy
  • SONET: Synchronized optical network

Layer 2 Protocols - Data Link

  • DCAP: Data Link Switching Client Access Protocol
  • FDDI: Fiber Data Distribution Interface
  • HDLC: High-level Data Link Control
  • LAPD: Link Access Protocol D-channel
  • PPP: Point-to-Point Protocol
  • STP: Spanning Tree Protocol
  • VTP VLAN: Virtual Trunking Protocol for Virtual LAN
  • MPLS: Multi-Protocol Label Switching

Layer 3 Protocols - Network

  • ARP: Address Resolution Protocol
  • BGP: Border Gateway Protocol
  • ICMP: Internet Control Message Protocol
  • IPv4: Internet Protocol version 4
  • IPv6: Internet Protocol version 6
  • IPX: Internetwork Packet Exchange
  • OSPF: Open Shortest Path First
  • RARP: Reverse Address Resolution Protocol

Layer 4 Protocols - Transport

  • IL: Originally converted as a transport layer for 9P
  • SPX: Sequenced Packet Exchange
  • SCTP: Stream Control Transmission Protocol
  • TCP: Transmission Control Protocol
  • UDP: User Datagram Protocol
  • iSCSI: Internet Small Computer Systems Interface
  • DCCP: Datagram Congestion Control Protocol

Layer 5 Protocols - Session

  • NFS: Network File System 
  • SMB: Server Message Block
  • RPC: Remote Procedure Call
  • SDP: Sockets Direct Protocol 
  • SMB: Server Message Block
  • SMPP: Short Message Point-to-Point 

Layer 6 Protocols - Presentation

  • TLS: Transport Layer Security
  • SSL: Secure Socket Layer
  • XDR: External Data Representation
  • MIME: Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions

Layer 7 Protocols - Application

  • DHCP: Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol
  • DNS: Domain Name System
  • HTTP: Hypertext Transfer Protocol
  • HTTPS: Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure
  • POP3: Post Office Protocol 3
  • SMTP: Simple Mail Transfer Protocol
  • Telnet: Telecommunications Network Protocol 

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Jithin. Interserver. (2016). Common Network Protocols, accessed in August 2019.


Rouse, Margaret. TechTarget. (undated) Network Protocols, accessed August 2019.