What is Frame Relay? | How Does It Facilitate Wide Area Networking?

Frame Relay is a packet-based network protocol by phone companies. Moreover, it uses efficient link-oriented data technology over public networks.

What is Frame Relay?

What is Frame Relay Network, and What are its Features?

Frame Relay interconnects remote LAN networks to meet their needs. So, it provides a dedicated network service for this purpose.

This corporate network service allows different channels to share a single transmission line. It increases the efficiency of networks thanks to its ability to send large volumes of traffic in short periods.

Frame Relay runs on layer 2 of the OSI model and transmits structured information in frames. It supports many protocols, applications, and media for customer communication. Additionally, it provides a versatile transport service for diverse needs.

Multi-protocol network structure enables voice transmission standards development. As a result, voice transmission over the frame becomes workable.

Cost-effective for long-distance data transmission, but usage declined due to IP-based solutions. But, telecommunications companies are transitioning applications to more IP-based solutions. ATM technology differs from Frame Relay, using fixed-length packets. Additionally, it demands more expensive hardware for implementation.

Features of Frame Relay

Frame Relay reduces network complexity with shared access lines. As a result, many virtual selections use the same line. Direct switch between locations reduces latency, improving performance and response time. So, it enhances communication efficiency within the network.

Network connections auto-redirect on error. QoS improves network performance. Thus, it ensures seamless communication in various scenarios. Pricing is not distance-based; programs for flexibility define connections. Moreover, network changes are faster and more cost-effective compared to other services.

Bandwidth efficiency with virtual circuits increases speed and performance. As a result, it provides enhanced network capabilities and performance. So, it is a cost-effective solution for data transfer.

Ideal for medium/high-speed connections between remote locations, suitable for the Internet. Moreover, it operates effectively on both physical and data connection layers. Frame Relay supports the data rates of standard T1 and T3 lines with individual connections up to 56 Kbps and fiber connections up to 2.4 Gb/s.

More commonly used as a data link layer for routing IP datagrams through VC networks. Furthermore, it performs an encapsulation function for efficient data transmission. It sends data securely over a private VC network, not the public Internet. So, it ensures enhanced data security for sensitive information.

Virtual Circuits in the Structure of Frame Relay

1. PVC (Permanent Virtual Circuits)

PVC virtual circuit functions like the leased line for permanent connections. Moreover, it establishes fixed routes between predetermined end nodes. So this ensures stable and continuous connectivity, even without active data transfer.

PVC circuitry saves bandwidth by eliminating setup and disconnecting procedures. Additionally, it ensures the constant availability of specific virtual circuits.

2. SVC (Switched Virtual Circuits)

SVC virtual circuitry connects target nodes and is like telephone calls. Each virtual circuit has a configured CIR in both directions. Each virtual circuit also has a Minimum Committed Flow (CIR) sign.

The CIR configuration guarantees bandwidth during congestion or data saturation. Additionally, it ensures smooth data flow even under heavy network usage.

The transmission rate can reach the connection’s bandwidth service using statistical multiplexing. Moreover, it allows for efficient use of network resources and optimal data transmission.

CIR ensures a minimum data rate under stable conditions. Furthermore, the difference between network link bandwidth and CIR is EIR (Excess Burst). SVC adjusts dynamically and stops after transmission completion. Moreover, irregular data transfers also use them.

3. DLCI (Data-Link Connection Identifier)

DLCI is a value that indicates a PVC or SVC, and DLCIs are important locally. In the extended LMI specification, DLCIs are essential globally.

4. CIR (Minimum Committed Flow)

CIR is the transfer rate accepted by a Frame-Relay network. Additionally, one measures it in bits per second, considering an average least time increment.

5. Reverse ARP (Reverse Address Resolution Protocol)

RARP creates dynamic paths in a network to find device addresses. Additionally, it uses virtual circuits for this purpose.

6. LMI (Local Administration Interface)

LMI verifies data transmission and sends native/multicast DLCI to the server. Furthermore, it ensures efficient multicast communication within the network infrastructure.

It offers global addressing for DLCIs and a status mechanism indicating the current state. Also, it enhances the management and monitoring capabilities of the network.

7. FECN (Forward Explicit Congestion Notification)

FECN notifies DTE of congestion on the source-destination path. Furthermore, it helps the receiving device manage and respond to network congestion effectively.

8. BECN (Backward Explicit Congestion Notification)

BECN is set on frames moving opposite to congested routes. Additionally, it enables the detection and avoidance of congestion in network routes.

DTEs receive frames with BECN bit-trigger flow control actions. Moreover, they configure higher-level protocols accordingly.

What are the Devices used in Configuring the Frame Relay Network?

We divide Frame Relay devices into two groups:

1) DTE (Data Terminal Equipment)

DTE stands for Data Terminal Equipment, serving as a Frame Relay endpoint. Additionally, it acts as the interface between customer equipment and Frame Relay.

This equipment establishes and terminates connections and manages and processes transmitted data. Also, it plays a crucial role in ensuring efficient communication and data handling.

It plays a crucial role in efficient communication and data handling. Moreover, it significantly influences the network communication process.

2) DCE (Data Circuit-Terminating Equipment)

The leased line provider has special equipment called DCE or Data Circuit-Terminating Equipment. This equipment helps with communication in networks.

It helps send data between different places and ensures the connection is good on the provider’s side. It also keeps everything safe and working well.

This equipment is essential because it makes sure leased line connections are reliable and secure. It also helps the network work properly.


In the second layer of OSI, Frame Relay needs control and retransmission services. These services also have essential information about service control in their frames. In short, there is no level 3 control header as with X.25 network technology.

With this network topology, it is ideal for configuring wide-area networks. Physical equipment changes are optional; minimal alterations occur at the link level. Furthermore, it plays a vital part in the network transmission process.

It connects local networks over medium to long distances, providing excellent performance up to 45 Mbps. It works well for exchanging significant amounts of data quickly and asynchronously. Also, it is very good at sending substantial amounts of data.

Frame Relay networks send data and voice at the same time. They also use the Data & Voice service to improve their interactions. A Frame Relay Access Device (FRAD) performs this service at the customer’s location.

As an end-to-end service, it manages the customer network. Yet, the management function becomes the customer’s responsibility for private lines.

It keeps a frame size of 9000 bytes, accommodating and providing frames for all LANs.


New algorithms are replacing Frame Relay networks because technology is getting better. So, here are some terrible things about Frame Relay:

  1. Low Speed and Bandwidth: Frame Relay has slower data rates and less space to send and receive data than newer technologies.
  2. Packet Loss: Packet loss happens when there is a lot of traffic, which makes it harder to send data securely. So, it makes it harder to send and receive info.
  3. Variable Delay Times: Real-time apps cannot use it when the delay times change. It could make it harder to send info in real-time.
  4. The Complexity of Management: Setting up and running large Frame Relay networks is challenging. So, it needs careful attention and control skills.
  5. Scalability Problems: Frame Relay may need help growing for extensive networks.
  6. Technological Aging: MPLS and other network technologies have replaced Frame Relay.
  7. Security Problems: It may pose a security risk, requiring more security measures. So it makes sure that data transfer stays safe.
  8. Complex Line Configurations: It needs different ways of setting up the lines, which makes control more complicated. So, it takes careful management to keep the network running well.
  9. Support: IT companies are removing Frame Relay in favor of newer technologies. Because of this, there may not be enough help in the future.

Differences Between Frame Relay and X.25

Frame Relay
Traffic Type
Resource Sharing
Error Detection
Error Recovery
Suitable for high speed, low latency, heavy traffic, and more. Moreover, it offers end-to-end management and increased site connectivity.
It can work at low and medium speeds in controlled networks. So, it links many places to a central facility in an efficient way.
It runs on layer 2 of the OSI model.
It runs on layer 3 of the OSI model.
Error Rate
It manages the functionality of the network, error control, flow control, and user terminal equipment.
Analog circuit design causes high transmission errors. Thus, error correction mechanisms are essential.
Speed Limit
64 Kbps/45 Mbps
64 Kbps/2.400 bps
Network Management
By Consumer
By Provider

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