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Research project about Asynchronous Transfer Mode ( ATM)


I. ASYNCHRONOUS TRANSFER MODE (ATM)......................5
ATM Virtual Circuit.......................................................................................................7
Virtual path/Virtual Channel Characteristics.............................................................10
Virtual Circuits Connection Uses..............................................................................11
Control signaling........................................................................................................11
ATM CELLS................................................................................................................13
Header Format...........................................................................................................14
Header Error Control.................................................................................................15
II. THE ATM REFERENCE MODEL.........................................16
PHYSICAL LAYER......................................................................................................18
The PMD sub-layer ...................................................................................................18
The TC sub-layer ......................................................................................................19
THE ATM LAYER.......................................................................................................21
ATM ADAPTATION LAYER.....................................................................................23
ATM adaptation layer 1...........................................................................................25
ATM adaptation layer 2............................................................................................26
ATM adaptation layer 3.............................................................................................27
ATM adaptation layer 4 ..........................................................................................28
ATM adaptation layer 5.............................................................................................29
A SUMMARY FOR THE REFERENCE MODEL.................................................31
III. THE BENEFITS OF ATM ....................................................34
IV. DISADVANTAGES OF ATM.............................................35
References .....................................................................................42

Everyday and on the world is changing a lot. Science forging with big pace, new
inventions important for human life, new technological advances occurring constantly
and so on. But if seen from communication point of view, this pace is faster and
technology more exciting in telecommunications. In order to deliver new services such as
video conferencing and video on demand, as well as provide more bandwidth for the
increasing volume of traditional data, the communications industry introduced a
technology that provided a common format for services with different bandwidth
requirements. This technology is Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM). As ATM
developed, it became a crucial step in how companies deliver, manage and maintain
their goods and services. This means that ATM is capable of transferring voice, video,
and data through private networks and across public networks.


Computer networks represents the model where a large number of separated

computers are interconnected and can communicate between them. Under this
communication we should understand that they can exchange information. Computers
can be connected via cooper wire, fiber optics, microwaves, infrared, satellite etc. As
time goes on, computer networks are becoming more high-tech and also more complex.
So, in order to reduce their design complexity they are organized as stack of layers, each
one built upon the one below it. This way every one of this layers ofers some service to
the layer above. The service can be connection-oriented or connectionless. In
connectionless service the message to be sent carries the full destination address and it is
independetly routed from other messages, from where we can see that this is modeled
after the postal system. On the other hand in connection oriented service, to send any
message, first we should establish a connection, than use it and at the end release it. This
service is modeled after the telephone system. This service uses a single channel for
passing messages, which means that all messages follow the same path and the packet
that is send first will be first one received at the other end.
In this group of connection-oriented networks we can find ATM Network
(Asynchronous Transfer Mode). ATM is a protocol that transmits data as fixed sized
packets . A sender and receiver on a network set up a fixed path between each other
before sending data, and the information arrives to the receiver in the order it was sent.

In the question why using ATM instead of other services, we’ll get the answer :
- It is standard based (one international standard)
- It is Scalable in distance (includes both LAN and WAN technology)
- It is scalable in speed
- Carries Multiple Traffic Types (Voice, Data, Video)
In fact, ATM can be thought of as the “highway” of the information
superhighway. Among the challenges faced by the designers of ATM, we can divide six
as more important. As the first one is the need for a transmission system to optimize the
use of the high-data-rate transmission media, in particular optical fiber. Second is the
need for a system that can interface with existing systems, such as the various packet
networks, and to provide wide area interconectivity between them without lowering their
effectiveness or requiring their replacement. Third is the need for a design that can be
implemented inexpensively so that cost would not be a barrier to adoption . This means
that ATM must be available at low cost to every user who wants it. As fourth the new
system must be able to work with and support the existing telecommunication hierarchies
(local loops, local providers, long-distance carriers, and so on). Fifth, the new system
must be connection-oriented to ensure accurate and predictable delivery. And the sixth
one is one of the objectives to move as many of the functions to hardware as possible and
eliminate as many software functions as possible, and this is done with the purpose of
increasing the data rate. So, seeing all of these ATM should be one of the most used types
of networks.

ATM is a cell based protocol that, in combination with B-ISDN, will allow high-
speed interconnection of all the world’s networks. As an introduction in this research
paper are described the main differences between frame-based and cell-based protocols,
where in the last one we find the ATM. So ATM transmits its data or information in
small fixed-size blocks. These blocks or cells are composed of 53 bytes (5 bytes of
header and 48 bytes of payload). Next important point is connection between two end
points which is accomplished through transmission paths, virtual paths, and virtual
circuits. Hence, a combination of a virtual path identifier and a virtual circuit identifier,
identify a virtual connection. Going on will be discovered that ATM can use a permanent
virtual circuit or a switched virtual circuit.
As other protocols too, ATM is organized as stack of layers. And after the ATM
standards three layer are most important :
- Physical layer which defines the transmission medium, bit transmission,
encoding, and electrical-to-optical transormation
- ATM layer which provides routing, traic management, switching and
multiplexing services
- Application Adaption layer (AAL) which accepts transmission from upper
layer services and maps them into ATM cells.

We are going to see more in detail these layers, similarities, differences and so on. But I
we have sayed so many things in favour to ATM it doesn’t mean that it is perfect and it is
the only one that should be used. With this we want to say that also it has some
advantages and disadvantages that are mention below, and also some real examples
where it is applicable and had shown good results.


Now we’ll look through ATM more closely. Layers, that we mentioned earlier, on
one machine can communicate with those in the other one through the protocol. So an
protocol is an agreement between the communicating parties on how communication is to
proceed. We are going to see two types of protocols :
- Frame-based protocols, and
- Cell-based protocols
Frame-Based Protocols encapsulate User data in Frames, otherwise known as Packets.
Frames are delineated by flags which are specific value octets that signify the beginning
and end of a frame. Frames are of variable length, i.e., different number of octets per
frame for different applications. It all looks like in the figure below

Variable length
User information

Flag Octet 1 Octet 2 Octet 3 ........ Octet N Flag

Figure 1.1 – Frame-Based protocol

On the other hand, cell-based Protocols encapsulate user information in Cells, fixed
length packets. Because Cells have some advantages like : Increased switching
performance with reduced switch complexity, the ability to support miltiple services of
different traffic characteristics like voice, data, video; etc, they are very used from
broadband networks. The figure below describes Cell based protocols.

5 octets 48 octets

User Information (48 octets)

Figure 1.2 – Cell-Based protocol

Now, that we’ve got an idea about Frame based and Cell based protocols, we’ll go
further deep with ATM and say that it is Cell based Protocol. But, about the ATM Cell
format we’ll see later on.
Beside that it is cell-based protocol, ATM is a cell-switching and multiplexing
technology that combines the benefits of circuit switching (constant transmission delay
and guaranteed capacity) with those of packet switching (flexibility and efficiency for
intermittent traffic). Like X.25 and Frame Relay, ATM defines the interface between the
user equipment (such was workstations and routers) and the network (referred to as the
User-Network Interface, or UNI). This definition supports the use of ATM switches (and
ATM switching techniques) within both public and private networks.
Because it is an asynchronous mechanism, ATM differs from synchronous transfer
mode methods, where time-division multiplexing (TDM) techniques are employed to
preassign users to time slots. ATM time slots are made available on demand, with
information identifying the source of the transmission contained in the header of each
ATM cell. TDM is inefficient relative to ATM because if a station has nothing to transmit
when its time slot comes up, that time slot is wasted. The converse situation, where one
station has lots of information to transmit, is also less efficient. In this case, that station
can only transmit when its turn comes up, even though all the other time slots are empty.
With ATM, a station can send cells whenever necessary. Figure below contrasts TDM
and ATM multiplexing techniques.

Figure 1.3 – TDM and ATM multiplexing techniques

ATM Virtual Circuit

To start sending informations or packets from one machine to another, ATM first
have to establish a connection, because we mentioned that it is a connection-oriented
network. For this reason ATM standards has defined two types of ATM connections:
virtual channel connection (VCCs) and virtual path connections (VPCs). A virtual channel
connection (or virtual circuit) is the basic unit, which represents the logical connection between
end stations, or we can say that it carries a single stream of cells, in order, from user to user. It
defined end points and routes but does not have bandwidth dedicated to it. Bandwidth is
allocated on demand by the network as users have traffic to transmit. VCC are also used
for user-network exchange (control signaling) and network-network exchange (network
management and routing).

Figure 1.4 – A virtual circuit (VCC)

When speaking about virtual circuit (VC), we can not forget to mention that there
are two types of them:
– Permanent Virtual Circuit (PVC) - that is a VCC or VPC that is
predefined and left in place all the time. If information is not being
transmitted, it doesn’t use any bandwidth. So, each permanent or
temporary connection has a unique connection identifier. A PVC looks
like in figure 1.5.
– Switched Virtual Circuit (SVC) – that is a VCC that is setup at the
instant that information needs to be sent between communication
endpoints, and then taken down after the transmission is finished.

Figure 1.5 - ATM Permanent Virtual Circuit Service

of virtual circuits can be bundled together into a
virtual path connection VPC. It is somewhat like a second sublayer
of processing. A virtual path connection can be created from end-to-end across an ATM
network (it is a bundle of VCC’s that have the same end points). In this case, the ATM network
does not route cells belonging to a particular virtual circuit. All cells belonging to a particular
virtual path are routed the same way through the ATM network, thus resulting in faster recovery
in case of major failures. A simple virtual path looks like in the figure below

Virtual path
Virtual circuits

Transmission path

Figure 1.6 – Virtual Path connection

The virtual path technique helps contain the control cost by grouping
connections sharing common paths through the network into a single unit. Network
management actions can then be applied to a small number of groups of connections
instead of a large number of individual connections.
The process of setting up a virtual path connection is decoupled from the
process of setting up an individual virtual channel connection :
• The virtual path control mechanisms include calculating routes, allocating
capacity, and storing connection state information

• To set up a virtual channel, there must first be a virtual path connection to
the required destination node with sufficient available capacity to support
the virtual channel, with the appropriate quality of service. A virtual
channel is set up by storing the required state information (virtual
channel/virtual path mapping).
The general way of call establishment process using virtual channels and virtual
paths, is shown in the figure

Request for VCC


Can quality of Yes

VPC exists? s er vi c e b e
s at is f ied ?

No No

Establish a Block VCC or

new VPC request more

Request Yes Make



Reject VCC

Figure 1.7 – Call establishment proccess using VC and VP

Like we see from the algorithm first it is generated a request for VCC. The next
step is to see if VPC exists or no. If doesn’t exists a new one is established and then
the algorithm checks if the quality of service can be satisfied. If the answer is ‘yes’
then a new connection is created, if no, and no more capacity is requested then the
VCC request is rejected.

Virtual paths VPCs are very usefull because they have some advantages, like:
• Simplified network architecture – Transport functions of the network can be
separated into those related to an individual logical connection (VCC) and those
related to a group of logical connections (VPC)

• Increased network performance and reliability- Network deals with fewer,
agregated entities
• Reduced processing and short connection setup time – When the virtual path is
set up, then much of the work is almost done. By reserving capacity on a virtual
path connection in anticipation of later call arrivals, new virtual circuit can be
established by executing simple control functions at the end points of the virtual
path connection: no call processing is required at transit nodes. Thus the
addition of new virtual channels to an existing virtual path involves minimal
• Enhanced network services: The virtual path although it has internal use in the
network , it is also visible to the end user. Thus, the user may define closed user
groups or closed networks of virtual channel bundles.

Virtual path/Virtual Channel Characteristics

Virtual Channels (Virtual Circuits) VCC have some characteristics some of which
are listed below:
- Quality of Service - When an ATM end station connects to the ATM
network, it is essentially making a contract with the network based on quality
of service (QOS) parameters. This contract specifies an envelope that
describes the intended traffic flow. This envelope specifies values for peak
bandwidth, average sustained bandwidth, and burst size.
- Switched and semipermanent virtual channel connections – An on-
demand connection, which requires call-control signaling for setting up and
pull it down, is called a switched VCC. But a semipermanent VCC is one that
is of long duration and it is set up by network management action.
- Call sequence integrity – The sequence of transmitted cells within a VCC is
- Traffic parameter negotiation and usage monitoring – Traffic parameters
can be negotiated between a user and the network for each VCC. The input of
cells to the VCC is monitored by the network for each VCC. This monitoring
is done intentionally to ensure that the negotiated parameters are not violated.
In the group of trafic parameters are included average rate, peak rate, burstiness
and peak duration. To deal with congestion and to manage existing and requested
VCC’s the network can use many strategies. One of them which is the worst one
is that the new request for VCCs can simply be denied by the network, so this
way it would prevent congestion. Then, cells may be discarded if negotiated
parameters are violated. Moreover, in an extreme situation, existing connection
may be terminated.

Beside the mentioned characteristics of VCC also exist those of VPC’s. We have
to point out that the characteristics of VCC’s are also part of VPC’s. And there are
number of reason for this repeating. First of all this repeating provides some
flexibility in how the network service manages the requirements placed on it.
Then the network must be concerned with the overall requirements for a VPC,
and within a VPC may negotiate the establishment of virtual channels (VCC) with
given characteristics. And finally, once a VPC is set up, it is possible for the end
users to negotiate the creation of new VCCs. So, here we have to intoduce a new
characteristic that belong to VPC:
– Virtual channel identifier restriction within a VPC – One or more virtual
channel identifiers, or numbers, may not be available to the user of VPC, but
may be reserved for network use. Examples include VCCs used for network

Virtual Circuits Connection Uses

The endpoints of VCC may be end users, network entities, or an end user and a
network entity. And in all cases cells are delivered in the same order in which they are
sent. Below are described examples of three uses of a VCC:
- Between end users - These VCCs are used to carry end to end user data, but
also they carry control signaling. The end users are provided with an overall
capacity, from virtual path connection, which lays between them. The VCC
organization of the VPC is up to the two end users, but the set of VCC’s
shouldn’t exceed the VPC capacity.
- Between an end user and a network entity – These VCCs are used for user-
to-network control signaling. A user-to-network VPC can be used to agregate
traffic from an end user to a network exchange or network server.
- Between two network entities – These VCCs are used for trafic management
and routing functions. A network-to-network VPC are used to define a
common route that exchanges network management informations.

Control signaling

To explain the signaling proccess closely we’ll describe it through the figure 1.8.
Here when an ATM device such as router A in the fugure, want’s to establish a
connection with another ATM device such router B, A sends a signaling request packet to
its directly connected ATM switch. This request contains the ATM address of the desired
ATM endpoint (Router B, in this case), also QoS parameters required for the connection.
The signaling packet is reassembled by the switch and examined. If the switch has
a switch table entry for Router B's ATM address, and it can accommodate the QoS

requested for the connection, it sets up the virtual connection on the input link and
forwards the request out the interface specified in the switching table for Router B.
Every switch along the path to the endpoint reassembles and examines the
signaling packet and forwards it to the next switch if the QoS parameters can be
supported while setting up the virtual connection as the signaling packet is forwarded. If
any switch along the path cannot accommodate the requested QoS parameters, the
request is rejected, and a rejection message is sent back to the originator of the request.
When the signaling packet arrives at the endpoint (Router B), it is reassembled and
evaluated. If the endpoint can support the desired QoS, it responds with an accept
message. As the accept message propagates back to the originator of the request, the
switches set up a virtual circuit. The originator of the request then receives the accept

Figure 1.8 – Control signaling proccess

We said that the exchange of information involved in the proccess of establishments and
releases of VPCs and VCCs, is refered to as control signaling. So, for VCCs four
methods are specified for providing an establishment/release facility :
1. Semipermanent VCCs, that are used for user-to-user exchange, and here
no control signaling is required.
2. Metasignaling channel, which is a permanent channel that is used for
setting up signaling channels. The permanent channel, probably of low
data rate, is used to set up VCCs that can be used for call control. This
channel is established only for control signaling exchange which would
take place between the user and the network.
3. User-to-network signaling virtual channel, which can be used for
setting up VCCs to carry user data.
4. User-to-user signaling virtual channel, that must be set up within a
preestablished VPC. Thank to this, later the two end users can establish
end release user-to-user VCCs without network intervention.

Beside VCCs, there are three methods defined for the VPCs:
1. Establishment on semipermanent basis by prior agreement, where no
control signaling is required.
2. Costumer controlled establishment/release, where the customer uses
a signaling VCC to request the VPC from the network.
3. Network controlled establishment/release, where the network
establishes a VPC for its own convenience. The path may be network-
to-network, user-to-network, user-to-user.


ATM transfers information in fixed-size units called cells. Cell size never
varies, and cells with the same source, destination and class of service parameters
always follow the same path, as long as that path meets performance criteria. Each cell
consists of 53 octets, or bytes (8 bits per byte). The first 5 bytes contain cell-header
information, and the remaining 48 contain the payload (user information). Small,
fixed-length cells are well suited to transferring voice and video traffic because such
traffic is intolerant of delays that result from having to wait for a large data packet to
download, among other things. The information field of ATM cells is carried
transparently through the network. No processing like error control is performed on it
inside the network. These were some advantages of small sized cells, and to add more
we can say that, because they are fixed-size cells, they can be switched more
efficiently, which is important for the very high data rates of ATM. Hence it is easier
to implement the switching mechanism in hardware. An ATM Cell looks like in the
figure 1.9

Figure 1.9 – ATM Cell format

Header Format

An ATM cell header can be one of two formats: UNI or NNI. The UNI, User-Network
Interface header format is defined by the UNI specification, and the Network-Network
Interface (NNI) header format is defined by the NNI specification. The UNI header is
used for communication between ATM endpoints and ATM switches in private ATM
networks, while the NNI header is used for communication between ATM switches.

Figure 1.10 - An ATM Cell, ATM UNI Cell, and ATM NNI Cell Header

The UNI header consists of the following fields (see figure 1.10) :
• GFC - 4 bits of generic flow control are used to provide local functions, such as
identifying multiple stations that share a single ATM interface. The GFC field is
typically not used and is set to a default value.
• VPI - 8 bits of virtual path identifier, are used, in conjunction with the VCI, to
identify the next destination of a cell as it passes through a series of ATM
switches on its way to its destination.
• VCI - 16 bits of virtual channel identifier, are used, in conjunction with the VPI,
to identify the next destination of a cell as it passes through a series of ATM
switches on its way to its destination, or simply it is used for routing to and from
the end user. Thus, it functions much as a service access point.
• PT - 3 bits of payload type – indicates the type of information in the information
field. Here the first bit indicates whether the cell contains user data or control
data. If the cell contains user data, the second bit indicates congestion, and the

third bit indicates whether the cell is the last in a series of cells that represent a
single AAL5 frame.
• CLP - 1 bit of cell loss priority, which indicates whether the cell should be
discarded if it encounters extreme congestion as it moves through the network.
Here a value of 0 indicates a cell of relatively higher priority, which should not be
discarded unless no other alternative is available. A value of 1 indicates that the
cell is subject to discard within the network
• HEC - 8 bits of header error control, which is a checksum calculated only on the
header itself.

Unlike the UNI, the NNI header does not include the Generic Flow Control (GFC) field.
Additionally, the NNI header has a Virtual Path Identifier (VPI) field that occupies the
first 12 bits, allowing for larger trunks between public ATM switches. Also this allows
support for an expanded number of VPCs internal to the network, to include those
supporting subscribers.

Header Error Control

Like we mentioned earlier, header error control (HEC) is an 8-bit field in every
ATM cell, so the polynomial used to generate the code is x8 + x2 +x+1.
In most existing protocols that include an error control field, such as HDLC and LAPB,
the data that serve as input to the error code calculation, are much longer than the size of
the resulting error code. This allows for error detection. End in the case of ATM, the code
has only 8 bits compared with 32 bits. Because the input is very short, the code can be
used not only for error detection but also for error correction.
In the figure below we are going to describe the HEC algorithm at the receiver.

Multibit error detected

(cell discarded)

No error detected No error detected

(no action) (no action) Detection
mode mode
Error detected
(cell discarded)

Single-bit error detected


Figure 1.11 – Header Error Control algorithm

At the beginning the receiver’s error correction algorithm is in the default mode
for single bit error correction. Then as each cell is received, there are done some
calculations and comparisons. If there are no errors detected, the receiver will remain in

the error correction mode. Otherwise when an error will be detected, the receiver will
correct it, if it is a single bit, or would detect that a multibit error has occurred. In both
cases the receiver moves to the detection mode. In this mode, no attempt is made to
correct errors. And the reason is that a noise burst or other event might cause a sequence
of errors, for which condition a HEC is insufficient for error correction. This way the
receiver will stay in the detection mode as long as errored cells are received. After the
examination of the header, if there are no error found the receiver switches back to
correction mode. The consequences of errors in the cell header, are shown in the
flowchart below, from where we see that the error is corrected or if not the cell is

No Error in Yes
header ?

Yes Error No
detected ?

Correction Detection
mode Current mode
mode ?

No Error de- Yes

termined to be

Successful Correction Unsuccessful


Valid cell Apparently valid cell Discarded cell

(intended service) with errored header
(unintended service)

Figure 1.12 – Consequences of error in cell header


The ATM architecture, which was described partly until now uses a logical model for
describing the way of work that it supports. ATM is a layered architecture allowing
multiple services, such as: voice, data, and video, to be carried over the network. The
functionality of ATM corresponds to the physical layer and in part to the data link layer
of the OSI model.
The ATM reference model has several layers which will be discussed; all this layers
have a common plan and organization consisting of:
- Control (responsible for generating and managing signaling requests,
manages call/connection control functions))
- User ( responsible for managing user data transfer)
- Management ( 2 components:
• layer management, which manages layer specific functions, as for
example detection of errors and protocol problems
• plane management, which manages the functions that have to do with the
whole system and provides coordination between various layers
Furthermore, the ATM reference model has two forms:
- a form for the user-to network interface (UNI)
- a form for the network-to-node interface (NNI)
Coming to the most important part of describing this reference model we will say
that the ATM Reference Model consists of three levels (below we will give a detailed
description of them), they are:
• The Physical Layer (manages the medium-dependent transmission;
defines a transport method for ATM cells between two ATM entities)
• The ATM Layer (responsible for the simultaneous sharing of virtual
circuits over a physical link and passing cells through the ATM network)
• The ATM Adaptation Layer (responsible for isolating higher-layer
protocols from the details of the ATM processes; it prepares user data for
conversion into cells and segments the data into 48-byte cell payloads)

Above these main levels, the ATM reference model has also some higher layers of
functionality but these three are the main layers that perform the main job.

Figure 2-1: ATM Reference Model

Lets us turn now to a detailed description and explanation of the three main layers of
the ATM Reference Model.


The ATM model was designed to make the physical data transport function as
independent as possible from the ATM switching function and other things that are
performed above the ATM Layer.
The physical layer deals with issues related to the media and the signals carried to the
media. In other words, the physical layer manages the medium-dependent transmission.
This layer is analogous to the physical layer of the OSI reference model and performs bit
level functions. The ATM reference model has four main functions, those are: converting
the cells into a bitstream, control of the transmission and receipt of bits on the physical
medium, tracking the ATM cell boundaries and packing the cells into types which will be
appropriate for the physical medium.
In addition, the physical layer is divided into two sub-layers: the Physical Medium-
Dependent sub-layer(PMD) and the Transmission convergence (TC) sub-layer.

The PMD sub-layer

It has two functions. The basic function of it is to take a stream of bits and
transport it transparently across a link. It makes synchronization of the transmission and
reception by sending and receiving a continuous flow of bits (with timing information
associated). Actually, the PMD sub-layer works with stream of ytes and not with stream
of bits, because most of the PMDs do the encoding on a byte or half-byte basis. Its
second function is to define the physical media including here the types of connectors and
cables. Most PMDs use block coding in any form. A block code groups data bits into
“blocks” and translates each block into another bit pattern before transmission on the line.
Block-coded protocols either code 4-bit groups into 5-bit groups or 8-bit groups into 10-
bit groups. So, we can say that the PMD sub-layer is responsible for the correct
transmission and reception of bits on the physical medium.
So, we can say that the PMDs basic work in the ATM reference model is providing the
transceiver services to physically transmit the ATM cells and convergence information
between two adjacent ATM stations.
The PMD is concerned only with the physical, medium-dependent functions and
specifications, such as:
- line coding, bit alignment and electrical-optical conversion – these functions
relate to the processes through which bits are encoded into appropriate
electrical or optical signals and prepared for propagation through the network

- physical media characteristics- the PMD sublayer specifies the characteristics
of the physical transport medium, such as the type of optical fiber, the
transmitter/receiver wavelength, the receivers sensitivity and power

The TC sub-layer
The TC sub-layer on the other hand has four functions. Those are: cell delineation, header
error control (HEC)–the generation and verification of sequence of cells, cell-rate
decoupling and transmission frame adaptation.
The cell delineation has to do with “defining” the cell boundaries and maintaining them,
it allows the devices to locate cells in a stream of bits. With this function it is defined
where in the data stream does a cell start and finish. The “finding” or “defining” of the
boundaries can be done basically in three ways:
- the transmission level coding can include a delimiter function that marks the
beginning and the end of the cells;
- many transmission systems may work with framing; the framing system
locates the cell boundaries (for example, this can be done with a pointer
within the frame overhead section; another way is placing the cells at fixed
locations within a frame(this could cause loss of efficiency if for example the
cells do not fit exactly as they should in a frame
- the cell HEC could be used also for locating the cell boundary, this is actually
the most common (and the most used) way of cell delineation; if a correct
HEC is recognized for a number of consecutive cells it is assumed that the
correct cell boundary is found; when the cell delineation has been found a
mechanism is used for using the HEC for correction or detection of cell
header errors, after this the isolated single bit errors are corrected.
HEC sequence generation and verification generates and checks the header error control
code with the purpose of ensuring whether the data is valid or not. The HEC is capable of
single-bit error correction or double-bit error detection.. The HEC sequence generation is
done in the direction of transmission and its value is recalculated and compared with the
value that is received. If the header errors can not be corrected, the cell will be discarded.
Cell-rate decoupling keeps the cells synchronized and provides the idle cells to adapt the
rate of valid cells to the payload capacity of the transmission system. ATM PMDs send a
constant stream of cells without any gaps (or holes). When there are no cells to send an
empty cell is sent. This empty cell is inserted on the transmission side and then it is
removed on the receiver side. However, today this is done in another way. The ATM
layer has to deliver a stream of cells at the correct rate, such that the convergence layer
would not have to insert any cells.
With the last function, transmission frame adaptation, this sub-layer packs ATM
cells into the type of frames which will be convenient for the existent implementation of
the physical layer. So, in one word, the transmission convergence sub-layer is responsible
for mapping of the ATM cells to the system that is used for transmission.

Typical possible transmission systems at the physical layer are the synchronous digital
hierarchy (SDH) or the FDDI standards. The first task of any transmission system is to
get timing at the bit level , which is ate the lowest physical level, and this is achieved by
the physical medium sub-layer. When the bits are available at the next sub-layer it is then
possible to first convert the bits to the frames of the transmission system that is used, and
then convert the frames to the actual cells. This process can be seen on Figure 2-2 below.

Figure 2-2: Cells to Frame Conversion at the Physical Layer

The transmission convergence sub-layer is standardized for to perform the generation

and extraction of the frames at the specified rates from the SDH and finding the ATM
cells by looking from the HEC on the cell header and then checking the error correction
code. After the cells are found and checked they are decoupled from the transmission rate
of the medium; this process is done by the insertion and deletion of the idle cells in the
stream (Figure 2-2). After this is done the cells are then available to the ATM layer.
The physical layer can transfer ATM cells from one user to another in two ways. At
the user-network interface (UNI), ATM cells may be carried in an externally framed
synchronous transmission structure or in a cell-based asynchronous transmission
structure. In North America, for example, SONET, a synchronous transmission structure,
is often used for framing and synchronization at the physical layer. The basic time unit of
a SONET frame is 125 microseconds .
Let us now explain very briefly the way of working of the two sub-layers of ATMs
physical layer:
• cells are delivered to the transmission convergence layer by the ATM layer
• the TC sub-layer knows about the cells and about the structure of the
transmission medium
• the TCsub-layer generates the HEC and puts it in the cell; then the cell is put
into the output stream of the TC sub-layer which than is being fed to the
Physical Medium Dependent (PMD) sub-layer
• the PMD sub-layer knows about the stream, if it is a stream of bits or a stream
of bytes
• the PMD performs coding, timing and transmission functions
All this physical protocols and interfaces have three things in common

• They are point-to-point -They connect an ATM endpoint with an ATM switch
or they connect two ATM switches together. There is no multipoint or LAN
type connection defined;
• They are full-duplex in operation (FDX).This means that data is transferred
simultaneously in both directions
• The physical link bandwidth can be asymmetric. This means that a higher data
rate may be possible in one of the directions.

All in all we can define the ATM physical layer as follows: it is the layer that
defines the bit timing and other characteristics for encoding and decoding the data into
suitable (preferable) electrical/optical waveforms for transmission and reception on the
specific physical media used it also keeps track of ATM cell boundaries and packages
cells into the appropriate type of frame for the physical medium being used. The ATM
physical layer defines electrical characteristics and network interfaces.
Examples of few media that are used in the physical layer are: SONET
(Synchronous Optical Network), DS3, 100Mbps local fiber (Fiber Distributed Data
Interface (FDDI)physical layer), 155Mbps local fiber (Fiber Channel physical layer),
twisted-pair etc. This examples talk about the fact that one of the strengths of the
Asynchronous Transfer Mode standards are the ability to configure networks that operate
over a variety of physical interfaces. Depending on the type of interface, additional
channel management services are also often included; strategies for framing the ATM
cells include synchronous framing tied to the lower level channel synchronization
protocols (SONET, DS3, 155Mbps) or based asynchronous line coding schemes ( ex. The
use of FDDI framing in the 100Mbps fiber interface).
To sum up here for the physical layer we can say that the ATM physical layer
defines how cells are mapped onto a physical medium for transmitting and receiving
between ATM hardware devices.


The ATM layer, together with the ATM adaptation layer can be said to be
analogous to the data link layer of the OSI reference model.
The ATM layer represents the physical interface between the ATM Adaptation layer and
the ATM Physical layer. Thus, the ATM layer is responsible for relaying cells from the
AAL to the Physical layer for transmission, and in opposite direction from the Physical
layer to the AAL for use in an endpoint.
If we want to define the ATM Layer in one simple sentence we would say that the
ATM Layer defines how two nodes transmit information between them. It is a unique
layer that carries different classes of services within a 53-byte cell. Mainly, it takes the
data to be sent and adds the 5-byte header information. Actually when transporting cells
to the Physical layer, the ATM layer is responsible for generating the five-bit cell header
for each cell; when receiving cells from the Physical layer, the ATM layer performs a
reverse operation, it extracts the five-bit header from the cell.

The actual manner by which the ATM layer performs its relaying function is depends
on the location of the layer, if it is located in an endpoint or at a switch. If it is located at
an endpoint it receives a stream of cells from the Physical layer and transmits either cells
with new data or empty cells if there is no data to send to the AAL. If it is located in a
switch, the ATM layer is responsible for determining where the incoming cells are routed
and also for multiplexing the cells by placing them from individual connections into a
single-cell stream.
The ATM layer is independent of the physical medium through which transmission is
performed. It is concerned with the format and size of the cells and the contents of the
headers. In a more specific way of defining this layer we would say that: the ATM layer
performs the core functions of the ATM protocol, which are: multiplexing, VPI/VCI
translation, payload extraction, header processing and generic flow control.
The ATM layer has the responsibility of simultaneous sharing of virtual circuits over a
physical link –this is the process called cell multiplexing – and passing cells through the
ATM network – called cell relay. For performing this functions that were described , the
layer uses the VPI and VCI information in the header of each ATM cell.
The functionality of the ATM layer is defined by the fields present in the ATM cell
header. The cell header contains a generic flow control (GFC) field, the VCI/VPI fields, a
payload type indicator (PTI) field, a cell loss priority (CLP) field, and a header checksum

Figure 2-3: ATM layer data handling processes

In figure 2-3 we can see how ATM layer actually works: the ATM layer accepts the
48-byte SAR-PDUs from the segmentation and reassembly (SAR) sublayer of the AAL,
builds a 5-byte header for each SAR-PDU, and produces 53-byte ATM cells for delivery
to the physical layer for transport to an ATM destination endpoint.

Let us make a clear distinction of the four functions of this layer:

• Generic Flow Control function (GFC)->it can be used for taking care of
the overload conditions above the ATM layer ;
• Cell header generation and extraction->it is used for inserting header
information at the transmitter end (in the received cell from the upper
layer) and removing it at the receiving end;
• Cell multiplex and demultiplex->it is used for multiplexing the cells into
one continuous stream at the transmitter end, and demultiplexing the cells

at the header according to VPI (Virtual Path Identifier) and VCI (Virtual
Channel Identifier) values;
• VPI and VCI translation, which is performed at the ATM switching and/or
cross-connect nodes.

It is worth to note here that the functions performed by the ATM layer are designed to
be carried out in hardware at very high data rates. Whether this can be achieved with
today's electronics at reasonable cost and high reliability is yet to be determined.
At last, we can conclude that ATM layer of the ATM reference model is responsible
for establishing connections and passing cells through the whole ATM network, and for
doing this it uses all the information that is contained in the header of each ATM cell.
The ATM layer is the layer that describes how cells are transported through the network
and how quality of service is enforced, so that connections operate within their contracted
service levels. The ATM layer is the core layer of the standard and this is the layer that
routes the cells across the network and multiplexes and demultiplexes the cells together
from many virtual paths on to one physical carrier.


As we discussed earlier the physical layer and ATM layer of the ATM reference
model provide sequential transfer of fixed-sized data units across a network. The ATM
Adaptation Layer (AAL) adapts that transfer process to perform the upper layer services
required by different users.
The ATM adaptation layer lies between the ATM layer and the higher layers which use
the ATM service. Its main purpose is to resolve any disparity between a service required
by the user and services available at the ATM layer.
The ATM Adaptation Layer (AAL) performs the process of adapting the traffic
generated by different applications to the ATM protocol. In combination with the ATM
layer (as said before!) it is analogous to the data link layer of the OSI reference model.
The adaptation layer resolves any disparity between services provided by the cell-based
technology of the ATM layer to the bit-stream technology of digital services (such as
telephones and video cameras) and the packet-stream technology of traditional data
networks (such as Frame relay and X.25 used in WANs and LAN protocols such as
Ethernet and TCP/IP).
So, the main purpose of the ATM adaptation layer (AAL) is to provide a link between
services that are requested by the higher network layers and the ATM cells which are
used by the ATM layer. It is responsible for isolating higher-layer protocols from the
details of the ATM processes.
The AAL makes the translation between the largest service data units ( SDUs, ex.
Video streams, data packets) of processes of the higher layers and ATM cells. In other
words, the AAL receives packets from the higher-levels and breaks them into segments
of 48-bytes that form the payload field (useful data) of an ATM cell.
The ATM adaptation layer contains two sub-layers

Convergence sub-layer - this part of the adaptation layer puts a header and a trailer
which contain information about the services required and the services to be performed,
the information on the header and on the trailer depends on the class of information that
is going to be transported and usually contains error handling information and
information about preserving the priority of the data

Segmentation and reassembly sub-layer - Segmentation and reassembly refers to the

process that is used for fragmenting and reassembling packets so to allow them to be
transported across ATM networks. Because of the reason that the ATM payload is only
48 bytes, nearly every packet from any other protocol has to be processed in this way.
Thus, it is an essential process for every ATM node.
This layer is the lowest of the two sublayers ( Convergence sublayer and SAR ) that
make up the ATM Adaptation layer as is shown in the figure bellow:

/------ /|-------------------------------------|
/ / | Common Part Convergence Sublayer |
/ CS |-------------------------------------|
AAL \ |Service Specific Convergence Sublayer|
\ \|-------------------------------------|
\ SAR | Segmentation & Reassembly Sublayer |
| ATM layer |

Figure 2-4: The AAL

- this part of the ATM adaptation layer receives the data unit from the convergence
sub-layer and divides it to units which than it can place them into the ATM cells; to each
piece it also adds a header which is used as a helping tool for reassembling the pieces at
the destination.
The information transported by the ATM adaptation layer is divided into few classes
according to the following properties:
- the information that is transported could be time dependent or time
- the bit rate could be variable or constant
- the information transfer could have two modes: connection and connectionless

There are 4 service classes defined, those are:

1. Class A - a time relation exists between the source and the destination, the bit
rate is constant, and the service is connection-oriented (e.g., a voice channel).
2. Class B - a time relation exists between the source and the destination, the bit

rate is variable, and the service is connection-oriented (e.g., a video or audio
3. Class C - no time relation exists between the source and the destination, the bit
rate is variable, and the service is connection-oriented (e.g., a connection-oriented
file transfer).
4. Class D - no time relation exists between the source and the destination, the bit
rate is variable, and the service is connectionless (e.g., LAN interconnection and
electronic mail).

There are few ATM adaptation layer services which are currently specified. The
International Telecommunication Union (ITU) first determined the need to provide
several standard AALs (classes of service) to satisfy the requirements of encapsulating
different information types into ATM layer cells. The selection of the proper AAL
depends on the physical links being used and the type of data being transmitted. So they
1. AAL-1
2. AAL-2
3. AAL-3
4. AAL-4
5. AAL-5

ATM adaptation layer 1

AAL-1 is used for transferring a constant bit data rate; this rate is time dependent. For
this reason and because ATM is asynchronous AAL-1 packet data units are equipped
with additional information such as time stamps and sequence counts to perform the
adaptation. AAL-1 must send timing information along with the data. AAL-1 provides
error recovery and specifies the errored information which can not be recovered. The
convergence sublayer provided here is used differently depending on the service that is
provided. It provides bit error correction and can also be used to transmit timing
information. At the segmentation and reassembly sublayer provided here the data unit is
segmented and a header is added to it.
So, AAL-1 operates by placing a one byte header on 47 bytes of user data and then
transferring the 48 bytes to the ATM layer .

The header that is added here contains three parts:

• a sequence number (SN), which is used to detect insertion and loss of cells
• sequence number protection (SNP), which is used to correct errors that
appear/occur in the sequence numbers
• convergence sublayer indication, which is used to specify the presence of
the convergence sublayer function

The SAR of the AAL-1 will be notified of the existence of the CS sublayer by the CS
indicator (CSI). A sequence number (SN) is passed from the CS sublayer to the SAR and

this SN then can be used to detect missing SAR loadings. As specified before, the header
of the SAR is protected by a sequence number protection field which can inform the CS
sublayer of bit errors.
The use of AAL-1 provides forwarding error correction at the cost of increased
bandwidth and delivery delay. It also allows compensation for CELL DELAY
VARIATION (CDV) and the replacement of the lost cells. AA-1 layer is recommended
when high video quality is needed, for example for voice and videoconferencing.

Figure 2-5: AAL-1 preparing cells for transmission in a way so that the cells
retain their order
Summing up for this adaptation layer we could say that the ATM adaptation layer
performs the functions which are necessary to adapt constant bit rate (CBR) services to
the ATM layer services.

ATM adaptation layer 2

AAL-2 is used for trasferring variable bit rate data , which is time dependent
also. It sends timing information also along ith the data so that the timing dependency
could be recovered at the destination. AAL-2 also provides error recovery and indicates
errored information which can not be recovered. Because of the reason that the source
here generates variable bit rate data, some of the cells that are transferred may be not full
and for this reason additional features are required for the segmentation and recovery
layer. Tis layer function,the convergence sublayer provides error correction and

transports the timing information from the source to the destination.This is achieved in
the same way as in the AAL-1.
At the segmentation and recovery sublayer here a header and a trailer are added, too.

• The header contains two parts/fields:

- a sequence number (SN), which also is used to detect inserted or lost cells(as
in AAL-1)
- the information type, can be:
BOM - the beginning of the message;
COM – the continuation of the message;
EOM – the end of the message;
or can indicate that the cell contains timing information or other kind of
• The trailer also contains two fields:
- The length indicator, which indicates the number of true data bytes in a cell
that is partially full;
- CRC, which is a cyclic redundancy check used by the segmentation and
reassembly sublayer for correcting the errors.
AAL-2 provides bandwidth efficient transmission of low-rate. Short and variable
packets in delay sensitive applications. AAL-2 also provides variable payloads (as said
before) within cells and across cells.
An enhancement to asynchronous transfer mode technology, AAL2 provides the
effective transport of voice while supporting the growing demands for data through
underlying ATM AAL5-based services.

ATM adaptation layer 3

AAL-3 is used for transferring variable rate data which is time independent. This service
layer supports message mode and streaming mode services. Message mode services are
transported in one single ATM adaptation layer interface data unit, whereas streaming
mode services require one or more ATM adaptation layer interface data unit (IDUs).
AAL-3 is divided into two forms of operation, which are:
• assured operation – where corrupted or lost convergence sublayer
protocol data units are retransmitted and flow control is also supported
• non-assured operation - where error recovery is left for the higher
layers and the flow control is only optional
The convergence sub-layer of AAL-3 is very similar to the convergence layer of
AAL-2, both of them have to do with non-real time data. The AAL-3 convergence layer
is further divided into two parts:

1. The common part convergence sub-layer as provided also by the AAL-2; it inserts
header and trailer to the common part convergence sub-layer –protocol data unit payload.
The header and trailer have 3 field each:
• the header:
- the common part indicator, which indicates that the payload is a part of
the common art
- the begin tag, which marks the start of the common part convergence
sub-layer protocol data unit
- the buffer allocation size, which tells the receiver how much buffer
space is required to accommodate the message
• the trailer :
- alignment, which is a byte filler used to make the header and trailer the
same length
- the end tag, which marks the end of the common part convergence
sublayer-protocol data unit
- the length field, which holds the length of the common part
convergence sub-layer protocol data unit payload.
2. The service specific part. The functions provided at this layer depend on the
services which are requested. They generaly include functions for error detection and
recovery .

The segmentation and reassembly sublayer: At this layer the convergence

sublayer - protocol data unit is segmented into pieces which can be placed in the ATM
cells. Here too, each cell has its own header and trailer.
• The header contains 3 fields:
- a segment type, which specifies what part of the message is incorporated
in the payload; it has a few values (similarly to the header in AAL-2)
 BOM, which indicated the beginning of the message
 COM, which signifies the continuation of the message
 EOM, which is the end of the message
 SSM, which indicates a single segment message
- a sequence number (SN), used to indicate insertion and los in ATM
- multiplexing identifier, which is used to differentiate data from
different connections which have been multiplexed into a single ATM
• The trailer contains two fields:
- a length number, which hold the number of useful data bytes in the cell
- the CYC, a cyclic redundancy check used for detecting errors and
provide recovery

ATM adaptation layer 4

AAL-4 is designed and used for transporting variable bit rate time independent traffic in
a connectionless mode. Similarly to AAL-3 , AAL-4 also supports two modes of
services : message mode services and streaming mode services. If we want to define them
here too, in other words we could say that: in message mode, single blocks of data are
received from the user at the service interface and delivered to another service interface
elsewhere in the network; whereas in the streaming mode, a stream of data blocks
separated in time from one another is transported across the network. It can also operate
in assured and non-assured mode as well (also similarly to AAL-3).
AAL-4 provides the possibility of transferring data without making any
connection. This type of service would not work for either voice or video. Voice and
video depend on distinct connections from end to end.
AAL4 provides and support point-to-point and point-to-multipoint transfer.
Nevertheless, AAL-4 is not able to provide a full connectionless service because
functions such as routing and addressing are performed at a higher level.

ATM adaptation layer 5

ALL-5 is the primary AAL for data and supports both connection-oriented and
connectionless data. AAL-5 is also known as the simplest and efficient adaptation layer
( SEAL ) because of the reason that the SAR sub-layer simply accepts the CSU-PDU and
segments it into 48-octet SAR PDUs without reserving any bytes in each cell.
ALL-5 was initially intended only for connection oriented data transfer, and it has
been proven to be a more efficient protocol then AAL-1 (less overhead, a fact that is very
important for example for bandwidth sensitive MPEG-2 applications).
AAL-5 provides these operations: First, the convergence sub-layer of AAL-5 appends
a variable-length pad and a 8-byte trailer to a frame. The pad is long enough to ensure
that the resulting PDU falls on the 48-byte boundary of the ATM cell. Then the
segmentation and reassembly segments the CS PDU into 48-byte blocks. Next, the ATM
layer places each block into the payload field of the ATM cell. For all cells except the last
cell, a bit in the header is set to zero to indicate that the cell is not the last cell in the
series that present one single frame ( a bit is set to one for the last cell). The receiving
AAL5 collects the incoming cells until it finds one with a bit that indicate the end of the
frame. Although AAL5 uses a single bit in the cell header for convergence, other ATM
adaptation layer protocols can use other convergence mechanisms also.
AAL-5 in a way is a simplification of AAL-3 and AAL-4 and it removes the need for
COM, BOM and EOM, which increases the efficiency of the protocol and makes its
implementation much easier

Figure 2-6: AAL-5 formats

The AAL-5 is currently the predominant North American adaptation layer; however
AAL-5 was not designed to cope with cell timing relationships now with cell-loss.
As we have seen, essentially the ATM adaptation layer of the ATM reference model
does not do any error recovery. If a frame is being received with some errors on it than it
is discarded and it is not delivered to the receiving end. The error recovery is a
responsibility of a “higher-layer” protocol. The ALL takes frames (blocks) of data that
are delivered to it, breaks them into cells and adds the necessary header information with
the purpose of allowing the rebuilding of the original blocks at the receiving end.
To sum up for the AAL5, we will say that a computer uses ATM Adaptation layer 5
for sending large blocks of data over ATM virtual circuits. On the transmitting end,
AAL5 generates a trailer, segments the block of data into cells and sends each cell over
the virtual circuit. On the receiving end, AAL5 reassembles the cells with the purpose of
producing the original block of data, extracts the trailer and delivers the blocks of data to
the receiving host software.

Even if few AALs were defined based on the application classes they still have a
sufficient degree of commonality to be merged. Figure 2-7 clearly illustrates the
relationship between application classes and ATM Adaptation layers with respect to the
different parameters used to classify the application classes.

Figure 2-7: A view of the AAL and the services they support

In conclusion to the explanation of the ATM adaptation layer of the ATM reference
model we can say that the function of it is to provide generalized interworking across the
ATM network. This layer been adopted by the ATM Forum for a class of service called
High Speed Data Transfer. AAL is a set of standard protocols which translate user traffic
into a size and format that can be contained in the payload of an ATM cell (53 bytes).
User traffic is returned to its original form at the destination.






Figure 2-8: The ATM Reference Model

In figure 2-8 we can see now clearly which are the comprising layers of the ATM
Reference Model. There are also some upper layers of the ATM protocol reference
model, those include optional protocol layers which are used to further encapsulate ATM
service for use with TCP/IP and other protocols.
At last, we will summarize this part of our research paper by writing the few main
ideas about this reference model.

• ATM is independent of any specific transmission medium
• The ATM layer defines the cell format, the way cells are transported
and the way to treat congestion
• The ATM adaptation layer defines the process of converting
information from the upper layers into ATM cells
The ATM was initially designed and developed to support the various
requirements of the various traffic types. There were various requirements of
quality-of-service (such as latency, delay, maximum and minimum burst, jitter,
bandwidth and so on) for different traffic , including HTTP file transfer, video
and voice traffic.
The different traffic types, such as AAL-1 and AAL-5 specify the ATM cell
structure through the architecture of the protocol data units (PDUs) required in
their categories. These traffic types are part of the parameters which are needed
during the cell setup, to specify the traffic requirements that must be present to
support the various types of cells, based on the application requirement. AAL-2 is
gaining an increased attention because it addresses particular needs that are not
fulfilled by AAL-1 nor by AAL-5.

In figure 2-9 we can see the summary of the whole ATM model, its layers,
sublayers and different functions.

Figure 2-9: ATM layers, sub-layers and their functions

According to ITU-T (International Telecommunications Union-Telecommunication

Standardization), ATM is "a transfer mode in which the information is organized into
cells; it is asynchronous in the sense that the recurrence of cells containing information is
not periodic. This is maybe the best definition for ATM. Lets turn now to some thoughts
about its use.
Asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) is often described as the future computer
networking paradigm that will bring high-speed communications t the desktop.
It is already known that many organizations today and many companies have installed
LANs for to meet their need of information exchange in the years to come. So, replacing

their LANs with ATM LANs in order to keep up with technology is pure nonsense.
Nevertheless, connecting these LANs together with an ATM technology makes sense.
This fact will make a transition to ATM wide area service between LANs in an
organization. The ATM standard is designed to efficiently support high-speed digital
voice and data communications. The expectation is that by the next decade, most of the
voice and data traffic generated in the world will be transmitted by ATM technology is
thought that ATM would become as common as the telephone in the next few years, for
us is to remain to see what happens.

“A typical ATM LAN would use a mesh or hierarchical topology, high-speed cell
switching, and standard ATM protocols. Deploying ATM technology and standards in a
local networking environment will have a significant impact on the way we view LANs.
The bandwidth of traditional LANs is usually on the order of tens of megabits per second,
while ATM LANs will support Gbps speeds. Today's LANs also lack scalability.
Tomorrow's LANs must operate in an environment in which computing devices are so
inexpensive and readily available that there are hundreds or even thousands in a typical
office. With such a large number of devices, any attempt to interconnect them with
traditional shared-media LANs would be impossible. The limitations of existing bus and
ring LANs, the demand for higher bandwidths, and larger user populations are the major
reasons for the growing interest in ATM LANs. ATM LANs will also have protocol
support for a mixture of high-level communication services (e.g., TCP/IP, UDP/IP, BSD
Sockets, and RPC) and may be used as "backbone networks" to interconnect existing
networks.”- TM concepts, architectures, and protocols.
From this part of the article we can easily conclude that in a few years ATM will be in
fact widely used because they offer good services, a lot of ATM supporters are of the
same thought.
We want to point here to the thoughts of Arthur Cooper in his work “ATM”, he
writes there: “
ATM will no doubt be the LAN and WAN technology of the future. It only
makes sense to use fixed-length data cells and to carry these cells from one user to
another. After all, what is the main purpose of any network? We know that the effective
and efficient transfer of data from one point to another can be accomplished by using one
of many technologies. However, we also know that ATM is without a doubt the most
effective and efficient way to do this. Once the costs of ATM interface boards for PCs,
ATM switches, bridges, hubs, and routers have reached an affordable level, network
managers will jump on the ATM bandwagon with both feet.”
Asynchronous transfer mode has received a lot of attention recently. Will ATM
live up to its promise as a universal switching and multiplexing methodology? Will it be
the technology that finally brings networked multimedia capabilities to our desktops?
Much effort has already been spent on developing ATM. ATM's success depends, in part,
on its ability to provide high-speed networking solutions that surpass (in terms of
price/performance) today's technologies. Over the next few years, we will undoubtedly
hear much more about the ATM reference model.

ATM is a network service that provides flexible and scalable solution for quality
in networks where multiple information types are supported . Each of these
information types with ATM can pass through a single network connection. The
multiple types of information and the single network connection are making the ATM
one of best network system now days.

If our solution for network problems will be ATM network system than we will
have these benefits from ATM.

1. High-speed communication
2. Connection-oriented service, similar to traditional telephony
3. Common LAN/WAN architecture
4. High performance via hardware switching
5. A single network connection that can reliably mix voice, video, and data
6. Flexible and efficient allocation of network bandwidth

1. High-speed communication. The speed of communication in one network

system is most wanted. The most important module in high-sped communication is
the memory manager , the memory manager manages logical data structures. In ATM
this job id done by Queue Manager. The Queue Manager is a special-purpose
processor that executes memory management instructions and makes the system to
work with the high speed .

2. Connection-oriented service, similar to traditional telephony. We have two

kind of methods used in data communication to transfer data, they are the
connection-oriented method and the connectionless . ATM is part of the Connection-
oriented service. Requires a session connection (analogous to a phone call) be
established before any data can be sent. This method is often called a "reliable"
network service. It can guarantee that data will arrive in the same order. Connection-
oriented services set up virtual links between end systems through a network.

3. Common LAN/WAN architecture. “Common LAN/WAN architecture allowing

ATM to be used consistently from one desktop to another; traditionally, LAN and
WAN technologies have been very different, with implications for performance and

4. High performance via hardware switching . high performance via hardware

switching with terabit switches on the horizont .

5.A single network connection that can reliably mix voice, video, and data. ATM
is a network service where multiple information types can pass over single network
connection. We know that connections in ATM are called virtual circuits. When
connection is established then different information types can be forwarded from one
host to another with 53 bytes called cell. ATM is the only one network system that
transfers those multiple information ( voice, video and data) over a single network
connection and this is one great benefit of ATM.

6. Flexible and efficient allocation of network bandwidth needs and delivering high
utilization of networking resources; most applications are or can be viewed as
inherently burst, data applications are LAN–based and are very burst, voice is burst ,
as both parties are neither speaking at once nor all the time; video is élan , as the
amount of motion and required resolution varies over time


ATM network system is great solution for network problems, but it have some
disadvantages and we must discuss them.
Here are some of ATM disadvantages:

1. Sophisticated switching and control mechanism

2. Hard state system
3. ATM aware
4. Rigid cell structure
6. Is to expensive

1. Sophisticated switching and control mechanism . The main function of an ATM

switch is to receive cells on a port and switch those cells to the proper output port
based on the VPI and VCI values of the cell. This switching is dictated by a switching
table that maps input ports to output ports based on the values of the VPI and VCI
fields, the control mechanism is Queue Manager. The Queue Manager is a special-
purpose processor that executes memory management instructions and makes the
system to work with the high speed . Both those switching and control mechanism are
very sophisticated and they are a big disadvantage of ATM.

2. Hard state system. We know that ATM is Hard state system, in a hard state
system like ATM, consistency of the state between systems across the network is
critical. There may be thousands, if not millions, of state entries in the network that
have to be consistent for the network to operate correctly.

3. ATM aware is used in ATM to connect one process to another , this process
(function) of ATM is very sophisticated and also is one big disadvantages of ATM.

4. Rigid cell structure. Even Cells in ATM system are doing very good job they
also have a rigid structure and data have problems while they are passing from one
place to another place at ATM network system.

6. Is to expensive. ATM is a great solution for our now days problems in network,
but the problem is that ATM parts ( ATM network system) is very expensive.
Because of that ATM systems are implemented only at the big companies and at the
government of some countries.


Computer networks now days are changing our life in every corner. Thanks to
computer networks we are able to communicate each other, to solve our problems
faster, to see and change our data from every place of the world, companies are
growing faster all of this is done from this modern technology called “network”.
The research that we have done is talking about ATM(asynchronous transfer
mode) networks. ATM falls in connection oriented networks and is one of the best
solution for network problems. All our project is one explanation of how ATM is
inside, how mix data are shared in this system. From all this explanation we see that
the main purpose of the ATM network system is to solve communication problems
that need a single connection and different (mixed) data types to travel through this
connection, this function or this kind of work makes the difference between
connection oriented networks (where ATM falls) and connectionless networks . The
data in the virtual circuit are traveling like cell (how cell is we have discovered with
one special topic in our research), because information are forwarded from one host to
another in the same path ATM has a great security and there are no data losing in this
system of communication. All packets that are forwarded from the sender host they all
are received at the other host ( machine) this makes ATM a network where the scale
of security is 100% .
We can not say anything else because we have discovered every thing up there
in our research , but for conclusion we want to say that ATM is great network system
used for mixed data and this technology Is used now days in many companies for
making their communication easily and their problems solvable. ATM have great
success in it implementation.


AAL - ATM Adaptation Layer

A set of four standard protocols that translate user traffic from the higher layers of the
protocol stack into a size and format that can be contained in the payload of an ATM cell
and return it to its original form at the destination. Each AAL consists of two sublayers:
the segmentation and reassembly (SAR) sublayer and the convergence sublayer. Each is

geared to a particular class of traffic, with specific characteristics concerning delay and
cell loss. All AAL functions occur at the ATM end-station rather than at the switch.

ATM - Asynchronous Transfer Mode

A high-speed, connection-oriented switching and multiplexing technology that uses 53-
byte cells (5-byte header, 48-byte payload) to transmit different types of traffic
simultaneously, including voice, video, and data. It is asynchronous in that information
streams can be sent independently without a common clock.ATM can be described
logically in three planes: The user plane coordinates the interface between user protocols,
such as IP or SMDS (Switched Multimegabit Data Service) and ATM; the management
plane coordinates the layers of the ATM stack; the control plane coordinates signaling
and setting up and tearing down virtual circuits.

ATM Layer
The layer of the ATM protocol stack that handles most of the processing and routing
activities. These include building the ATM header, cell multiplexing/demultiplexing, cell
reception and header validation, cell routing using VPIs/VCIs, payload-type
identification, quality of service specification, and flow control and prioritization

BOM - Begining of Message

An ATM cell consists of 53 bytes . Of these, 5 constitute the header, the remaining 48
carry the data payload.

Cell-Loss Priority (CLP) Field

A priority bit in the cell header; when set, it indicates that the cell can be discarded if

Cell relay
The packet switching mechanism used for the fixed size packets called cells

Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC)

A mathematical algorithm used to ensure accurate delivery based on the actual contents
of the data

Cell error ratio (CER) The fraction of cells delivered in error

Cell loss ratio (CLR) The fraction of cells lost during transmission

Cell transfer delay (CTD)

The average time needed for a cell to travel from source to destination

A condition in which two packets are being transmitted over a medium at the same time.
Their interference makes both unintelligible

Constant bit rate (CBR)
The data rate of an ATM service class that is designed for customers requiring real-time
audio or video services

Convergence sublayer (CS)

The upper AAL sublayer that adds a header or a trailer to the user data

Data Exchange Interface (DXI)

Defines a format for passing data that has gone through the ATM convergence sublayer
(a CS-PDU) between a router and a CSU/DSU or other device with ATM SAR

EOM - End of Message

Emulated Local-Area Network (ELAN)

A logical network created with mechanisms defined in the ATM Forum’s LAN
Emulation 1.0 (LANE 1.0) spec. An ELAN may encompass stations physically attached
to ATM and non-ATM segments.

Forward Error Correction (FEC)

FEC takes advantage of the sequence number contained in an ATM AAL (ATM
adaptation layer) 1 protocol data unit to detect cell loss and prevent unnecessary
transmission of cells belonging to faulty packets. A recent proposal to the ATM Forum
advocates the use of FEC to address problems of data loss and packet delay on shared
constant bit rate ATM links. According to studies conducted by several ATM Forum
member companies, using FEC to detect cell loss allows multiple ATM devices to share
the same virtual circuit for real-time audio and video transmission with minimal added
overhead (approximately 3 percent) and only slight performance degradation

Guaranteed frame rate (GFR)

A proposed standard from the Traffic Management subworking group of the ATM
Forum. Sometimes called UBR+ (unspecified bit-rate plus), GFR lets users specify a
connection-dependent minimum cell rate for transmissions. The final spec is likely to
arrive by middle or late 1998.

System-defined control information that precedes user data
Header Error Control (HEC)
The last 1-byte field in an ATM cell's 5-byte header, the HEC field contains information
that is used to detect and correct errors in the cell header. These sorts of errors are likely
to corrupt addressing fields, causing the network to deliver the cell to the wrong
destination or drop the cell and request retransmission. On fiber networks, header errors
typically take one of two forms: relatively common single-bit errors and rarer error
bursts. HEC uses the SECDEC (single error correction, double error detection) algorithm
to fix single-bit errors and discard cells with multiple errors.

A group of services, functions, and protocols that is complete from a conceptual point of
view, that is one out of a set of hierarchically arranged groups and that extends across all
systems that conform to the network architecture

Information portion of an ATM cell, exclusive of header. ATM cells typically have 48-
byte payloads, but size can vary depending upon type of data and AAL.

Permanent Virtual Circuit (PVC)

A virtual link with fixed end-points that are defined by the network manager. A single
virtual path may support multiple PVCs.

Physical Medium-Dependent (PMD) Sublayer

Defines the actual speed at which ATM traffic can be transmitted across a given physical
The ATM Forum has approved three SONET interfaces for UNI: STS-1 at 51.84 Mbit/s,
STS-3c at 155.52 Mbit/s, and STS-12c at 622.08 Mbit/s, as well as DS-1 (T1) at 1.544
Mbit/s, E1 at 2.048 Mbit/s, E3 at 34.368 Mbit/s, and DS-3 (T3) at 44.73 Mbit/s. The
forum also has adopted a number of specifications for LAN environments, including a
100-Mbit/s interface using FDDI encoding, a 155-Mbit/s interface using Category 5 UTP
(unshielded twisted-pair), and a 51-Mbit/s interface using Category 3 UTP.

Quality of Service (QoS) Classes

Five broad categories outlined by the ATM Forum's UNI 3.0; implementation details and
precise characteristics are to be determined in the future.Class 1 specifies performance
requirements and indicates that ATM's quality of service should be comparable with the
service offered by standard digital connections. Class 2 specifies necessary service levels
for packetized video and voice. Class 3 defines requirements for interoperability with
other connection-oriented protocols, particularly frame relay. Class 4 specifies
interoperability requirements for connectionless protocols, including IP, IPX, and SMDS.
Class 5 is effectively a "best-effort" attempt at delivery; it is intended for applications that
do not require a particular class of service.

Synchronous Optical Network (SONET)

An international suite of standards for transmitting digital information over optical
interfaces. "Synchronous" indicates that all component portions of the SONET signal can
be tied to a single reference clock

Virtual Channel (VC)

A defined route between two end-points in an ATM network that may traverse several
virtual paths.

Virtual Circuit (VC)
A portion of a virtual path or a virtual channel that is used to establish a single virtual
connection between two end-points.

Virtual Path (VP)

A group of virtual channels, which can support multiple virtual circuits.

Virtual Path Identifier (VPI)

An 8-bit field in the ATM cell header that indicates the virtual path over which a cell is to
be routed. A virtual connection established using only the VPI is known as a virtual path
connection (VPC).

Usage Parameter Control (UPC)

A mechanism for protecting network resources from malicious or unintentionally
damaging behavior by monitoring connection traffic for conformance to the service
contract. Also called policing, usage parameter control involves checking such
characteristics as the traffic's burst size and rate.UPC prevents congestion by not
admitting excess traffic onto the network when all resources are in use. UPC changes the
CLP bit of cells that exceed traffic parameters so they are dropped.

ATM – Asynchronous transfer mode
AAL – Application adaption layer
ABR – Available bit rate
CBR - Constant bit rate
CDV – Cell delay variation

CER – Cell error ratio
CLR – Cell loss ratio
CTD – Cell transfer delay
CBR – Constant bit rate
CS – Convergence sublayer
PMD - Physical Medium-Dependent sub-layer
QoS- Quality of service
SCR – Sustained cell rate
SNMP - Simple Network Management Protocol
TC - Transmission convergence
TDM – Time division multiplexing
TP – Transmission path
UNI – User to network interface
VBR – Variable bit rate
VC – Virtual circuit
VCI - Virtual circuit identifier
VP – Virtual path
VPI – Virtual path identifier


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Upper Saddle River,NJ: Prentice Hall PTR, 1998

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Chichester West Sussex, PO19 1UD England

[2] Andrew S.Tanenbaum , Computer Networks-4th edition.
Upper Saddle River,NJ: Prentice Hall PTR,

[3] Robertazzi Thomas G, Computer Networks and Systems. Department of

electrical engineering, SUNY Stony Brook NY 11794-2350 USA

[4] Forouzan, Behrouz A. Data communications and networking 2nd. 1221 Avenue
of the Americas, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2001 .