What Is a Protocol Suite?


A protocol suite is a collection of communications procedures, broken down into small data packets. Each contains its own set of rules and message formats, which work together to transmit information electronically across computer networks, via a common communications language.

TCP/IP Suite

  • The Internet protocol suite TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) is used to transmit trillions of data packets from node (computer, modem or routing device) to node, either worldwide (the Internet) or through private networks (sometimes called an intranet).

One Protocol or Two?

  • Though TCP and IP are individual protocols, they are thought of as a single protocol (TCP/IP) due to the way they effectively work each other: IP transmits streams of data, composed of several packets, to its ultimate destination, and TCP completes the transmission by reassembling the packets. Every computer has its own unique IP address.

Set of Protocols

  • Documents called "Requests For Comments" (RFC) define the set of protocols (UDP, ICMP, TCP and IP) in the TCP/IP suite, which is used for conversing among networks. The set of formats and procedures in each protocol governs how data is transferred and received between nodes.


  • The TCP/IP suite uses an inter-networking (connecting two or more networks) of various software stages, called layers, to send information along its route--application (mailing, transferring files, remote access, authenticating and name resolution), transport, network and data link.

Origin and Development

  • Seeking to provide a networking framework to communicate and exchange data among government agencies and universities, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), part of the U.S. Department of Defense) funded the early development of the ARPANET protocol suite in the early 1970s. Further technological advancements led to developing other data transmission networks. Becoming the standard for all military computer networking in 1982, TCP/IP paved the way for governments, businesses, schools, residences and other entities to communicate throughout the world.

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  • Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Vivek Patankar
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