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The physical layer consists of the networking hardware transmission technologies of a network. It is a fundamental layer underlying the logical data structures of the higher level functions in a network. Due to the plethora of available hardware technologies with widely varying characteristics, this is perhaps the most complex layer in the OSI architecture.
The physical layer defines the means of transmitting raw bits rather than logical data packets over a physical link connecting network nodes. The bit stream may be grouped into code words or symbols and converted to a physical signal that is transmitted over a hardware transmission medium. The physical layer provides an electrical, mechanical, and procedural interface to the transmission medium. The shapes and properties of the electrical connectors, the frequencies to broadcast on, the modulation scheme to use and similar low-level parameters, are specified here.
Within the semantics of the OSI network architecture, the physical layer translates logical communications requests from the data link layer into hardware-specific operations to cause transmission or reception of electronic signals.
Physical signaling sublayer
- interfaces with the data link layer's media access control (MAC) sublayer,
- performs character encoding, transmission, reception and decoding and,
- performs galvanic isolation.
Relation to Internet Protocol
The Internet protocol suite, defined in RFC 1122 and RFC 1123, is a high-level networking description used for the Internet and similar networks. It does not define an equivalent layer that deals exclusively with hardware-level specifications and interfaces, as this model does not concern itself directly with physical interfaces. Several RFCs mention a physical layer and data link layer, but that is in the context of IEEE protocols. RFC 1122 and 1123 do not mention any physical layer functionality or physical layer standards.
List of services
The major functions and services performed by the physical layer are:
The physical layer is also concerned with:
The following technologies provide physical layer services:
The following network equipment provides physical layer services: