The 4-Layer TCP/IP Network Model

The Department of Defence TCP/IP model is a 4-layer model that defines areas of responsibility much like the OSI, while providing insight into the functions of the different protocols that make up the TCP/IP suite. The model provides an excellent point of reference when compared to the OSI. We won’t look at all the details of the TCP/IP model just yet – the majority will be covered in Chapter 4. My feeling is that the data encapsulation process is much better explained using a popular protocol suite.

To begin, let’s take a look at how the TCP/IP model maps to the OSI model. While the names of the TCP/IP layers are different, they generally encompass the same responsibilities as one or more OSI layers. Consider the diagram below.

Figure: Comparing the OSI and TCP/IP network models.

Tip: Although the layers of the TCP/IP model technically use different names, Cisco will still refer to protocols by their associated OSI layer name. For example, Cisco will describe TCP as being a Transport layer protocol.

For the sake of illustration, I’ve included some of the key protocols that make up the TCP/IP suite in the figure below. Be aware that the terms data, segment, packet, and frame still apply as data is encapsulated in the TCP/IP model.

Figure: TCP/IP protocol stack including common protocols and network technologies.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.