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2.3.3 Ethernet and IEEE 802 Encapsulation Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia
2.3.3 Ethernet and IEEE 802 Encapsulation

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2.3.3 Ethernet and IEEE 802 Encapsulation

2.3.3 Ethernet and IEEE 802 Encapsulation

The IP encapsulation for Ethernets is described in RFC-894 [LINK:3], while RFC-1042 [LINK:4] describes the IP encapsulation for IEEE 802 networks. RFC-1042 elaborates and replaces the discussion in Section 3.4 of [INTRO:2].

Every Internet host connected to a 10Mbps Ethernet cable:

  • MUST be able to send and receive packets using RFC-894 encapsulation;

  • SHOULD be able to receive RFC-1042 packets, intermixed with RFC-894 packets; and

  • MAY be able to send packets using RFC-1042 encapsulation.

An Internet host that implements sending both the RFC-894 and the RFC-1042 encapsulations MUST provide a configuration switch to select which is sent, and this switch MUST default to RFC-894.

Note that the standard IP encapsulation in RFC-1042 does not use the protocol id value (K1=6) that IEEE reserved for IP; instead, it uses a value (K1=170) that implies an extension (the "SNAP") which can be used to hold the Ether-Type field. An Internet system MUST NOT send 802 packets using K1=6.

Address translation from Internet addresses to link-layer addresses on Ethernet and IEEE 802 networks MUST be managed by the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP).

The MTU for an Ethernet is 1500 and for 802.3 is 1492.


The IEEE 802.3 specification provides for operation over a 10Mbps Ethernet cable, in which case Ethernet and IEEE 802.3 frames can be physically intermixed. A receiver can distinguish Ethernet and 802.3 frames by the value of the 802.3 Length field; this two-octet field coincides in the header with the Ether-Type field of an Ethernet frame. In particular, the 802.3 Length field must be less than or equal to 1500, while all valid Ether-Type values are greater than 1500.

Another compatibility problem arises with link-layer broadcasts. A broadcast sent with one framing will not be seen by hosts that can receive only the other framing.

The provisions of this section were designed to provide direct interoperation between 894-capable and 1042-capable systems on the same cable, to the maximum extent possible. It is intended to support the present situation where 894-only systems predominate, while providing an easy transition to a possible future in which 1042-capable systems become common.

Note that 894-only systems cannot interoperate directly with 1042-only systems. If the two system types are set up as two different logical networks on the same cable, they can communicate only through an IP gateway. Furthermore, it is not useful or even possible for a dual-format host to discover automatically which format to send, because of the problem of link-layer broadcasts.


Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia
2.3.3 Ethernet and IEEE 802 Encapsulation


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