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  • Frame Relay is a high-performance WAN protocol that operates at the physical and data link layers of the OSI reference model.
  • Frame Relay often is described as a streamlined version of X.25, offering fewer of the robust capabilities, such as windowing and retransmission of last data that are offered in X.25. This is because Frame Relay typically operates over WAN facilities that offer more reliable connection services and a higher degree of reliability than the facilities available during the late 1970s and early 1980s that served as the common platforms for X.25 WANs.

Standard Frame Relay Frame

Standard Frame Relay Frame

The following descriptions summarize the basic Frame Relay frame fields illustrated :

  • Flags—Delimits the beginning and end of the frame. The value of this field is always the same and is represented either as the hexadecimal number 7E or as the binary number 01111110.
  • Address—Contains the following information:
  1. DLCI—The 10-bit DLCI is the essence of the Frame Relay header. This value represents the virtual connection between the DTE device and the switch. Each virtual connection that is multiplexed onto the physical channel will be represented by a unique DLCI.The DLCI values have local significance only, which means that they are unique only to the physical channel on which they reside. Therefore, devices at opposite ends of a connection can use different DLCI values to refer to the same virtual connection.
  2. Extended Address (EA)—The EA is used to indicate whether the byte in which the EA value is 1 is the last addressing field. If the value is 1, then the current byte is determined to be the last DLCI octet. Although current Frame Relay implementations all use a two-octet DLCI, this capability does allow longer DLCIs to be used in the future. The eighth bit of each byte of the Address field is used to indicate the EA.
  3. C/R—The C/R is the bit that follows the most significant DLCI byte in the Address field. C/R  is the flow direction indicator. If frames are sent by the station that initiated the current connections, the C/R bit is set to zero; the respond frame has C/R set to one  —  C/R=0 … command       C/R=1 … response
  4. Congestion Control—This consists of the 3 bits that control the Frame Relay congestion-notification mechanisms. These are the FECN, BECN, and DE bits, which are the last 3 bits in the Address field.                                                                              Forward-explicit congestion notification (FECN) is a single-bit field that can be set to a value of 1 by a switch to indicate to an end DTE device, such as a router, that congestion was experienced in the direction of the frame transmission from source to destination. The primary benefit of the use of the FECN and BECN fields is the capability of higher-layer protocols to react intelligently to these congestion indicators.                                                                                                                        Backward-explicit congestion notification (BECN) is a single-bit field that, when set to a value of 1 by a switch, indicates that congestion was experienced in the network in the direction opposite of the frame transmission from source to destination. Discard eligibility (DE) is set by the DTE device, such as a router, to indicate that the marked frame is of lesser importance relative to other frames being transmitted. Frames that are marked as “discard eligible” should be discarded before other frames in a congested network. This allows for a basic prioritization mechanism in Frame Relay networks.
  • Data—Contains encapsulated upper-layer data. Each frame in this variable-length field includes a user data or payload field that will vary in length up to 16,000 octets. This field serves to transport the higher-layer protocol packet (PDU) through a Frame Relay network.
  • Frame Check Sequence—Ensures the integrity of transmitted data. This value is computed by the source device and verified by the receiver to ensure integrity of transmission.