The network layer is concerned with getting packets from the source all the way to the destination. Getting to the destination may require making many hops at intermediate routers along the way. This function clearly contrasts with that of the data link layer, which has the more modest goal of just moving frames from one end of a wire to the other. Thus, the network layer is the lowest layer that deals with end-to-end transmission.

To achieve its goals, the network layer must know about the topology of the network (i.e., the set of all routers and links) and choose appropriate paths through it, even for large networks. It must also take care when choosing routes to avoid overloading some of the communication lines and routers ...

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