Difference Between Circuit Switching and Packet Switching

Difference Between Circuit Switching and Packet Switching

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Rashmi Karan
Manager - Content
Updated on Nov 21, 2023 10:36 IST

Switching is a necessary process when it comes to network connection. Switching refers to the connection of multiple communicating devices with one another. There are primarily two methods of switching: circuit switching and packet switching. Both techniques help switch with some differences in working. The critical difference between circuit switching and packet switching is based on the connection types. There is a dedicated channel in circuit switching, while in packet switching, each packet is transmitted individually. 


Tabular Comparison - Packet Switching vs Circuit Switching

Aspect Circuit Switching Packet Switching
Dedicated Path Uses a dedicated communication path for the entire duration of a conversation. Does not use dedicated paths; data is divided into packets and sent separately.
Resource Allocation Resources (e.g., bandwidth) are reserved for the entire call duration. Resources are shared among multiple users and dynamically allocated.
Efficiency Less efficient for handling bursty or intermittent data traffic. More efficient at handling bursty and intermittent data traffic.
Scalability Less scalable as resources are fixed for each call. More scalable as resources are allocated on-demand.
Circuit Reservation Requires call setup and teardown to establish a connection. No need for explicit circuit reservation; data can be sent as packets immediately.
Data Delivery Guarantees Provides a constant and guaranteed data path during a call. No strict guarantees; data delivery may vary based on network conditions.
Delay Low and relatively constant end-to-end delay. Variable delay depends on network congestion and packet routing.
Network Usage Inefficient use of network resources when there is silence or no data transfer. Efficient use of network resources, as bandwidth is utilized only when data is transmitted.
Examples of Use Traditional telephone networks, like PSTN. The internet, Ethernet LANs, and modern telecommunication networks.
Overhead Higher overhead due to the need for call setup and dedicated resources. Lower overhead because packets carry header information.

What is Circuit Switching?

Circuit switching is a communication type established or created through a dedicated channel known as a circuit, the time that a session lasts. As soon as that session ends (such as a phone call), the channel will be released and, therefore, can be used by another pair of users: sender and receiver. 

It uses a dedicated communication circuit or channel for the entire duration of the connection. Circuit switching, also known as connection-oriented networking, is the foundation of traditional telephone networks.

Characteristics of Circuit Switching

  • Dedicated channel – These networks secure a dedicated communications channel circuit that only the two endpoints can access.
  • Reservations – Transmission and switching resources are reserved exclusively for the circuit during the connection.
  • Transparency – The connection, when established, will appear as if the devices were connected.
  • Three Phases – A circuit switch involves three phases: establishing the circuit, data transfer, and disconnecting the circuit.

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What is Packet Switching?

In packet switching, the transmitted data or information is pre-assembled into packets. Each packet is transmitted individually and can follow different routes to reach the destination. As soon as they do, those packets are reassembled again.

Packet switching is based on Internet protocols and divides data into discrete chunks called packets. These packets travel from one destination to another over the Internet or other data networks. Each packet has information about its origin, destination, data payload, etc. Individual packets take different routes and only arrive sequentially. Therefore, packets may arrive at the destination at different times and are reassembled there.

As expected, packet switching works well for non-real-time data, such as emails or messages. Data packets take the most efficient route to their destination since bandwidth is shared among users. Therefore, it is much cheaper than circuit switching to send data. Quality and reliability can be a concern, but providers have made strides in bringing VoIP calls (using packet-switched technology) on par with traditional landlines.

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Packet Switching Features

  • The packets are a set of data or information that consists of the data as such and the information to control and thus know the route that must be followed.
  • Packet switching uses different paths to route packets to their destination.  
  • In case of any issue or error, the packets can be stored and retransmitted when required.
  • Packets use the best routes available for delivery. They can route across congested network parts without slowing them down.
  • You can encrypt the packets for secure delivery.
  • Packets queue or queue to be transmitted at maximum speed.
  • Even though transmission is slow, a network can still accept more data.
  • There is the alternative of managing priorities so that if there is more relevant information, it is transmitted long before the other data.

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Main Differences Between Circuit And Packet Switching

There are some critical differences between circuit and packet switching.

  1.  The switching circuit reserves the entire path for the end user to establish the connection. In contrast, the message exchange technique does not establish real-time communication. Using the network nodes, it sends the data from a sender to a destination address.
  2. The data is sent directly to the recipient in the switching circuit as in the telephone system. In contrast, the message exchange first stores the data and then sends it to the nearest available node, and the process repeats.
  3. The transmission media used in circuit switching are analogue, while message switching can be analogue and digital.
  4. Addressing circuit switching is geographic. In contrast, message switching uses hierarchical switching.
  5. Circuit switching employs manual routing, while message switching does not pre-define the route and is done at call setup time.
  6. A dedicated path for communication is necessarily required in circuit switching. Conversely, there is no need for a dedicated route for the message exchange.
  7. The cost of circuit switching is higher than message switching.


For data transmission, packet switching is more efficient than circuit switching. In contrast, circuit switching is more efficient in voice transmission than packet switching.

About the Author
Rashmi Karan
Manager - Content

Rashmi is a postgraduate in Biotechnology with a flair for research-oriented work and has an experience of over 13 years in content creation and social media handling. She has a diversified writing portfolio and aim... Read Full Bio