Differences between IP Addresses and Data Link Addresses

In networking, there are two important addressing schemes used to identify devices on a network: IP addresses and data-link addresses.

While these two types of addresses may seem similar, they serve different purposes and operate at different levels of the networking stack.

IP addresses are commonly used in Internet protocol (IP) networks to uniquely identify devices on a network. These addresses are typically assigned by a network administrator or Internet Service Provider (ISP) and allow devices to communicate with each other across different networks. On the other hand, data link addresses refer to physical device identifiers that help facilitate communication within a single local area network (LAN).

Understanding the differences between these two types of addresses can improve your understanding of how data is transmitted over computer networks.

What is an IP Address?

An IP address, short for Internet Protocol address, is a unique numerical identifier assigned to every device connected to the Internet. It consists of a series of four numbers separated by dots, such as

IP addresses are used to identify and locate devices on the internet to establish communication between them. Every internet-connected device has its unique IP address which allows it to communicate with other devices on the Internet.

There are two main types of IP addresses: IPv4 and IPv6. IPv4 uses a 32-bit address format and can support up to 4 billion different unique addresses. IPv6, on the other hand, uses a 128-bit address format and can support an almost unlimited number of unique addresses.

To connect to the internet, your device must have a valid IP address assigned either automatically through your ISP or manually configured by network administrators in some cases.

The IP address space is managed globally by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), and by five regional Internet registries (RIR) responsible in their designated territories for assignment to end users and local Internet registries, such as Internet service providers.

IANA has distributed IPv4 addresses to the RIRs in blocks of approximately 16.8 million. Each ISP or private network administrator assigns an IP address to each device connected to its network. Such assignments may be static (fixed or permanent) or dynamic, depending on their software and practices.

What is a Data Link Address?

A Data Link Address (DLA), also known as a MAC address or Ethernet address, is a unique identifier assigned to each network interface controller (NIC) in a device. It is used to identify the source and destination of data packets transmitted over a local area network (LAN).

The Data Link Address (DLA) is used to identify a specific network interface controller (NIC) in a device. Each NIC is assigned a unique DLA, which enables devices on a network to communicate with one another.
When data is transmitted over a network, it is broken down into small data packets that contain the data being transmitted along with information about the source and destination addresses of each packet. The DLA is used as the source address for outgoing packets and as the destination address for incoming packets.

In addition to enabling communication between devices on a local area network (LAN), DLAs are also used by routers to forward packets across multiple networks. Routers use the DLA to determine where to send packets based on their destination address.


In conclusion, IP addresses and data link addresses are both important components of network communication. While IP addresses are used to identify devices on a network and enable communication between them, data link addresses are used to regulate the flow of data within a local network. IP addresses operate at the network layer, while data link addresses operate at the data link layer. Understanding the differences between these two types of addresses is essential for anyone working with computer networks. By taking this knowledge into account, network professionals can ensure that their systems are functioning properly and efficiently. It is important to continue learning about the nuances of networking to stay up-to-date with emerging technologies and trends.

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Raj Maurya

Raj Maurya is the founder of Digital Gyan. He is a technical content writer on Fiverr and When not working, he plays Valorant.

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