Ethernet Frame Structure
Data field (46 to 1,500 bytes)
- This field carries the IP datagram. The maximum transmission unit (MTU) of Ethernet is 1,500 bytes. This means that if the IP datagram exceeds 1,500 bytes, then the host has to fragment the datagram. The minimum size of the data field is 46 bytes. This means that if the IP datagram is less than 46 bytes, the data field has to be “stuffed” to fill it out to 46 bytes. When stuffing is used, the data passed to the network layer contains the stuffing as well as an IP datagram.
Destination address (6 bytes)
- This field contains the MAC address of the destination adapter, BB-BB-BB-BB-BB-BB. When adapter B receives an Ethernet frame whose destination address is either BB-BB-BB-BB-BB-BB or the MAC broadcast address, it passes the contents of the frame’s data field to the network layer; if it receives a frame with any other MAC address, it discards the frame.
Sources address (6 bytes)
- This field contains the MAC address of the adapter that transmits the frame onto the LAN, in this example, AA-AA-AA-AA-AA-AA.
Type field (2 bytes)
- The type field permits Ethernet to multiplex network-layer protocols. To understand this, we need to keep in mind that hosts can use other network-layer protocols besides IP. In fact, a given host may support multiple network-layer protocols using different protocols for different applications. For this reason, when the Ethernet frame arrives at adapter B, adapter B needs to know to which network-layer protocol it should pass (that is, demultiplex) the contents of the data field.
Cyclic redundancy checks (CRC) (4 bytes)
- The purpose of the CRC field is to allow the receiving adapter, adapter B, to detect bit errors in the frame.
Preamble (8 bytes)
- The Ethernet frame begins with an 8-byte preamble field. Each of the first 7 bytes of the preamble has a value of 10101010; the last byte is 10101011. The first 7 bytes of the preamble serve to “wake up” the receiving adapters. And to synchronize their clocks to that of the sender’s clock. Why should the clocks be out of synchronization? Keep in mind that adapter A aims to transmit the frame at 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, or 1 Gbps, depending on the type of Ethernet LAN.
- However, because nothing is absolutely perfect, adapter A will not transmit the frame at exactly the target rate; there will always some drift from the target rate, a drift which is not known a priori by the other adapters on the LAN. A receiving adapter can lock onto adapter A’s clock simply by locking onto the bits in the first 7 bytes of the preamble. The last 2 bits of the eighth byte of the preamble (the first two consecutive 1s) alert adapter B that the “important stuff” is about to come.