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Basic Frame Structure of HDLC

Last Updated : 31 Jul, 2020
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High-Level Data Link Control (HDLC) generally uses term “frame” to indicate and represent an entity of data or a protocol of data unit often transmitted or transferred from one station to another station. Each and every frame on link should begin and end with Flag Sequence Field (F). Each of frames in HDLC includes mainly six fields. It begins with a flag field, an address field, a control field, an information field, an frame check sequence (FCS) field, and an ending flag field. The ending flag field of one frame can serve as beginning flag field of the next frame in multiple-frame transmissions.

The basic frame structure of HDLC protocol is shown below :



Size of Different Fields :

Field Name Size (bits)
Flag Field 8 bits
Address Field 8 bits
Control Field 8 or 16 bits
Information Field Variable (not used in some type of HDLC frames)
FCS (Frame Check Sequence) Field 16 or 32 bits
Closing Flag Field 8 bits

Let us understand these fields in details :

  1. Flag Field –
    The flag field is generally responsible for initiation and termination of error checking. In HDLC protocol, there is no start and stop bits. So, the flag field is basically using delimiter 0x7e to simply indicate beginning and end of frame.

    It is an 8-bit sequence with a bit pattern 01111110 that basically helps in identifying both starting and end of a frame. This bit pattern also serves as a synchronization pattern for receiver. This bit pattern is also not allowed to occur anywhere else inside a complete frame.


  2. Address Field –
    The address field generally includes HDLC address of secondary station. It helps to identify secondary station will sent or receive data frame. This field also generally consists of 8 bits therefore it is capable of addressing 256 addresses. This field can be of 1 byte or several bytes long, it depends upon requirements of network. Each byte can identify up to 128 stations.

    This address might include a particular address, a group address, or a broadcast address. A primary address can either be a source of communication or a destination that eliminates requirement of including address of primary.


  3. Control Field –
    HDLC generally uses this field to determine how to control process of communication. The control field is different for different types of frames in HDLC protocol. The types of frames can be Information frame (I-frame), Supervisory frame (S-frame), and Unnumbered frame (U-frame).




    This field is a 1-2-byte segment of frame generally requires for flow and error control. This field basically consists of 8 bits but it can be extended to 16 bits. In this field, interpretation of bits usually depends upon the type of frame.



  4. Information Field –
    This field usually contains data or information of users sender is transmitting to receiver in an I-frame and network layer or management information in U-frame. It also consists of user’s data and is fully transparent. The length of this field might vary from one network to another network.
    Information field is not always present in an HDLC frame.


  5. Frame Check Sequence (FCS) –

    FCS is generally used for identification of errors i.e., HDLC error detection. In FCS, CRC16 (16-bit Cyclic Redundancy Check) or CRC32 (32-bit Cyclic Redundancy Check) code is basically used for error detection. CRC calculation is done again in receiver. If somehow result differs even slightly from value in original frame, an error is assumed.

    This field can either contain 2 byte or 4 bytes. This field is a total 16 bit that is required for error detection in address field, control field, and information field. FCS is basically calculated by sender and receiver both of a data frame. FCS is used to confirm and ensure that data frame was not corrupted by medium that is used to transfer frame from sender to receiver.


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