Transmission and Networking in FE Electrical

Transmission and Networking in FE Electrical is the crucial exam topic per the NCEES® FE exam guidelines and syllabus. It also plays a vital role in digital communication. If you have not read the first part of this guide, it is recommended to read Digital Communication in the FE Electrical to understand the topic.

To help you cover Transmission and Networking for the Electrical FE Exam, we will approach this technical topic from different angles. So, let’s move towards further detail.

Fundamentals of Data Transmission and Networking

Data transmission and networking in the FE Electrical exam is a fundamental aspect that involves data transition from one point to another within a network. Let’s start exploring some basics.

Types of Data Transmission in Networking

Serial and parallel transmission differ in their data transfer methods and are suited for different use cases, each with varying advantages and downsides.

Serial Transmission

Definition: Serial transmission in the FE Electrical is a method in which data is sent sequentially, one bit at a time, over a single communication channel (usually one wire or fiber-optic strand).

  • Simplicity: Serial transmission is more straightforward and requires fewer wires or channels.
  • Longer Distance: It is better suited for long-distance communication because it’s less susceptible to interference and signal degradation.
  • Cost-Effective: Due to the reduced hardware complexity, it can be more cost-effective for specific applications.
  • Synchronization: Data is inherently synchronized as it’s transmitted one bit at a time.
  • Slower Speed: Serial transmission can be slower than parallel transmission, especially for large data volumes.
  • Limited Bandwidth: The available bandwidth is limited by the transmission rate of the single channel.
  • Inefficient for Bulk Data: It may not be efficient for applications that require high-speed data transfer, such as video streaming or high-performance computing.

Serial transmission is commonly used in applications where longer distances, simplicity, and cost-effectiveness are more critical than speed. Examples include long-haul data communication, telecommunication links, and serial protocols like RS-232.

Parallel Transmission

Definition: Parallel transmission involves sending multiple bits simultaneously over multiple communication channels, typically using separate wires.

  • Higher Speed: Parallel transmission can achieve higher data transfer rates than serial transmission because multiple bits are sent in parallel.
  • Increased Bandwidth: The use of multiple channels increases the available bandwidth for data transmission.
  • Efficient for Bulk Data: It is suitable for applications that require high-speed data transfer, such as data buses in computer systems.
  • Synchronization Challenges: Maintaining synchronization between multiple channels can be complex, and timing issues may arise.
  • Cost and Complexity: Parallel transmission requires more wires or channels, which can increase the cost and complexity of the system.
  • Limited Distance: Parallel transmission is more susceptible to signal degradation over longer distances.

Parallel transmission is often used when high-speed data transfer is crucial, such as connecting components within a computer system (e.g., motherboard buses), printer interfaces, and some older external storage devices.

How to Choose between Serial vs. Parallel Transmission?

The choice between serial and parallel transmission depends on the specific requirements of the application. Serial transmission is suitable for longer distances and applications where simplicity and cost-effectiveness are essential.

In contrast, parallel transmission excels in scenarios where high-speed data transfer is a priority, even though it may involve more complexity and cost. Modern technologies have shifted towards serial communication in many cases, given its advantages in efficiency and long-distance data transmission.

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Networking and Network Topologies in Digital Communication

networking in fe electrical

Networking in the FE Electrical exam is a fundamental study and research area that comprises modern digital communications, enabling the exchange of data and information between devices, computers, and systems. In network design, various topologies establish connections and dictate how data flows among connected devices.

Three common network topologies are Bus, Star, Ring, and Mesh each with applications, limitations, and advantages. Let’s explore these topologies, examining their workflows and assessing their efficiency.

Bus Topology


Local Area Networks (LANs): Bus topology is commonly used in small to medium-sized LANs, where devices are connected to a central data bus.

  • Simplicity: Bus topology is straightforward to set up and requires minimal cabling.
  • Cost-Effective: It is cost-effective for smaller networks.
  • Scalability: Devices can be easily added or removed without disrupting the entire network.
  • Single Point of Failure: The central bus is a single point of failure; if it fails, the entire network is affected.
  • Limited Scalability: As the network grows, it can become less efficient due to collisions and increased traffic.
How Bus Topology Works?
  1. Devices on the bus listen for data packets.
  2. When a device wants to transmit data, it checks if the bus is idle. If it is, the device transmits the data.
  3. If multiple devices attempt to transmit simultaneously, collisions occur, leading to data corruption.
  4. Devices have to wait for a random period before reattempting to transmit to avoid collision.

Star Topology

  • Local Area Networks (LANs): Commonly used in LANs where all devices are connected to a central hub or switch.
  • Home Networks: Home networks often use star topology, with devices connected to a central router.
  • Reliability: Failure of one cable or device doesn’t affect the entire network.
  • Scalability: It is easy to add or remove devices without disrupting the network.
  • Centralized Management: Central hubs or switches provide easier network management.
  • Single Point of Failure: The central hub or switch is a single point of failure.
  • Cost and Complexity: Requires more cabling and hardware compared to bus topology.
How Star Topology Works
  1. Devices are connected to a central hub or switch.
  2. Data from one device is transmitted to the central hub, which then forwards it to the destination device.

Ring Topology


Token Ring Networks: Historically used in LANs, such as Token Ring networks.

  • Equal Access: Each device has an equal opportunity to transmit data.
  • Deterministic: Token passing ensures orderly data transmission.
  • Single Point of Failure: The network may become inaccessible if the ring is broken (e.g., due to a cable failure).
  • Complex Troubleshooting: Diagnosing and repairing issues in a ring network can be complex.
How Ring Topology Works?
  1. Devices are connected in a physical or logical ring.
  2. A token (a particular data packet) circulates the ring.
  3. When a device has data to transmit, it captures the token, adds its data, and releases the token back into the ring.
  4. Data moves from device to device until it reaches the destination, and the token is eventually released.

Mesh Topology

computer networks in fe electrical

In a mesh topology, every device is connected to every other device. This highly redundant structure enhances reliability and fault tolerance. Mesh topologies can be either full mesh (every device connected to every other) or partial mesh (only critical devices interconnected).

How Mesh Topology Works?

In a complete or total mesh topology, every device is directly connected to every other device. This high level of connectivity enhances fault tolerance and redundancy but comes at the cost of increased cabling and complexity.

In a mesh topology, there is no dedicated token-passing mechanism, as seen in ring topologies. Instead, devices communicate directly with each other. When one device wants to send data to another, it can do so without relying on a token.

The absence of a token-passing mechanism in mesh topologies simplifies the communication process. Devices can independently initiate data transmission, and the network benefits from multiple paths for data to travel. This redundancy ensures that alternative paths are available if one link or device fails, maintaining network connectivity.

Which Network Topology is Best?

  • Bus topology can suffer from increased collisions as the network grows, affecting efficiency.
  • Star topology is efficient, with individual devices’ failures not affecting the network. However, the central hub or switch can become a bottleneck.
  • Ring topology provides deterministic data transmission, but bandwidth utilization may be less efficient than other topologies.
  • Mesh topology is best for organizations with hefty IT budgets and requiring seamless transmission between highly interconnected devices.

The choice of topology depends on factors such as network size, reliability requirements, and budget constraints. Each topology has its trade-offs; network designers must consider these carefully when planning a network.

To learn about Hybrid topology and understand how token flow works, read our detailed guide on Computer Networks in FE Electrical.

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Introduction to Internet Protocols and Data Routing

Understanding Internet protocols and data routing is crucial to master transmission and networking in FE Electrical. It helps you understand how modern networks work with close collaboration between critical networking devices and processes. Let’s discuss this in detail.

Internet Protocols

Internet Protocols and data routing are fundamental components of the global Internet infrastructure. They facilitate data exchange and enable communication between devices and systems across the internet. Let’s explore how various Internet Protocols work, the principles of data routing, and the key elements involved in this process.

IP (Internet Protocol) – IP is the cornerstone of the Internet, responsible for addressing and routing data packets. It defines a set of rules for data transmission across networks.

*The most widely used versions are IPv4 and IPv6, where IPv6 offers a larger address space to accommodate the growing number of devices on the internet.

TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) – TCP is a connection-oriented protocol that provides reliable, error-checked data transfer. It establishes, maintains, and terminates connections between devices.

UDP (User Datagram Protocol) – UDP is a connectionless protocol that offers faster but less reliable data transmission. It is used for applications where speed is prioritized over reliability.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) – HTTP transfers web pages, enabling the request and retrieval of HTML documents from web servers.

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) – SMTP is used for sending and receiving email messages between mail servers.

Data Routing

data routing

Data routing involves forwarding packets from their source to their destination through intermediate devices, ensuring the data reaches its intended recipient.

Let’s explore the key elements and processes involved in data routing.

Data Packet

A data packet is the fundamental unit of data transmission in networking. It consists of two main components:

  1. Payload: The payload is the actual data to be delivered, such as text, images, videos, or any other digital information.
  2. Header: The header contains metadata and control information about the packet.

The critical elements of the header include:

  1. Source IP Address: This is the IP address of the sender.
  2. Destination IP Address: This is the IP address of the intended recipient.
  3. Other Control Fields: These fields may include information about packet sequence, time to live (TTL), and error-checking data (such as a checksum).

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Routers are critical devices in data routing, responsible for determining the path packets should take to reach their destination. The process includes several steps, including:

  1. Packet Reception: When a router receives a data packet, it examines the destination IP address from the header.
  2. Routing Table Lookup: The router consults its routing table, a data structure containing network topology and routing information.
  3. Subsequent Hop Determination: Based on the destination IP address, the routing table helps the router determine the next hop, which is the next router or network segment the packet should be forwarded to.
  4. Forwarding Decision: The router decides which interface the packet should exit through to reach the next hop. It rewrites the packet’s header to indicate the new destination and source IP addresses.
  5. Packet Forwarding: The router then forwards the packet to the appropriate interface, and it is sent on its way to the next router or network segment.

Network Gateway

A network gateway connects one network to another, allowing data to flow between them. The primary process of a network gateway includes:

  1. Protocol Translation: Gateways translate data from one network protocol to another. For example, it can translate between IPv4 and IPv6.
  2. Data Routing: The gateway routes data between networks, determining the best path for data transmission.
  3. Network Address Translation (NAT): In many cases, gateways perform NAT, which allows multiple devices on a local network to share a single public IP address.

Routing Table

Routing tables are data structures that routers use to make forwarding decisions. These tables contain detailed information about available routes and network topology. The routing table consists of several columns to store information on different parameters, such as:

  • Destination Network: This column specifies the range of IP addresses that belong to a particular network or subnet.
  • Next Hop: This indicates the IP address of the next router or gateway to which the packet should be sent.
  • Interface: The interface through which the packet should exit to reach the next hop.
  • Metric: A metric is a value assigned to routes, allowing routers to determine the most efficient path based on factors like hop count or link speed.


Firewalls are security devices that filter and monitor network traffic. They enforce security policies and protect networks from unauthorized access and threats. Firewall functions include:

  • Packet Filtering: Firewalls analyze packets and apply rules to allow or deny their passage.
  • Stateful Inspection: This advanced technique examines the state of connections and enforces rules based on the connection state (e.g., TCP handshake).
  • Intrusion Detection and Prevention: Some firewalls have intrusion detection and prevention features that identify and block malicious activity.
  • Access Control Lists (ACLs): ACLs define rules that permit or deny traffic based on source, destination, and port information.

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How Routing Works?

The routing process involves multiple steps to forward data from source to destination:

  1. Data Division: Data is divided into packets of a manageable size for transmission.
  2. Header Attachment: Each packet has a header containing source and destination IP addresses, among other details.
  3. Router Reception: Routers receive data packets and examine the destination IP address.
  4. Routing Table Consultation: Routers consult their routing tables to determine the next hop.
  5. Forwarding Decision: Routers make a forwarding decision based on routing table information, reconfigure the header, and choose the appropriate interface.
  6. Packet Forwarding: Routers forward packets to the next hop or the final destination using the selected interface.

Efficiency and Load Balancing

Efficiency and load balancing are essential for optimal network performance. Routers employ load balancing techniques such as equal-cost multipath (ECMP) to distribute traffic efficiently across multiple paths.

This ensures that network resources are utilized evenly and prevents network congestion. Load balancing mechanisms may consider factors like link speed and available bandwidth when deciding which path to forward.

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You now have a rich idea about why transmission and networking in the FE Electrical is a crucial exam topic. It helps you score good marks in your exam and also enables you to show your expertise in the communication and electronics field throughout your career.

For NCEES® FE Electrical exam preparation, we recommend checking out our comprehensive FE resources at Study for FE – Your go-to place for all things FE.


Licensed Professional Engineer in Texas (PE), Florida (PE) and Ontario (P. Eng) with consulting experience in design, commissioning and plant engineering for clients in Energy, Mining and Infrastructure.