What is PPP, PPPoA and PPPoE?
PPP (Point to Point Protocol)
PPP was designed to provide a managed data-link connection between two devices, generally
over some form of Serial Data Link.
Prior to the development of PPP a lot of serial links used the HDLC (High Level Data-link
Control) protocol. This was a no frills protocol with no other purpose other than to provide
an encapsulation at the data-link layer.
In contrast PPP comes with a number of options including providing encryption, authentication
and data compression. It is the authentication option that was identified as being an ideal
method of authenticating a user or client device by a network that had a service to provide.
Being able to identify and authenticate a user by means of username and password combination
became the common method in use by Service Providers.
PPP really came in to its own with the advent of Dial-Up Internet services when the authentication
feature was used to authenticate a dial-up user to the network. A network RADIUS (Remote Access
Dial In User Service) server would be positioned in the network to perform the role of the authenticator.
These days PPP is used on many connections including ADSL, Cable and also for authentication ISDN
lines. PPP can be used with ATM as PPPoA or Ethernet as PPPoE. Next Generation Networks being
designed and built to deliver voice, data and multimedia will, in the main continue the use of PPP.
PPPoA (Point-to-Point Protocol over ATM)
When dial-up services were eventually superseded by ADSL broadband services, PPPoA became the
method by which an ADSL user identified themselves to the network. PPPoA quickly became the
de-facto standard for authentication in an ADSL network.
Some broadband services are delivered over an Ethernet connection rather than over a
telephone line. The user still needs to be authenticated, so PPP was adapted to be run over
Ethernet in a similar manner to how it was used over an ATM connection. This became known as
PPPoE (Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet) and it is this method that is proposed as the
access authentication method for many Next Generation Network Services.
PPPoE (Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet)
PPPoE is often bundled with end user operating systems and software and supports a simple
and reliable method of end user authentication. In order to make broadband services inexpensive
to the end user, it is important that a simple method is used to identify and authenticate
the end user devices. Using this method will even mean that existing authenticating RADIUS
servers can be used for the new services.
The use of PPPoE has a number of distinct advantages over alternative access methods:
• Simple access control and authentication
• Accounting of users for billing purposes is easy
• Broadcast traffic is kept to a minimum, as PPP is not a broadcast protocol
• PPP connections scale very well to allow thousands or tens of thousands of users
So PPPoE will continue to be used for some time to come, even in the developing Next
Generation Networks. PPPoA will largely disappear as the standard ADSL services are migrated
over to fibre and Ethernet. Service providers evolving Next Generation Networks do not have
to go back to the drawing board to come up with a new authentication and accounting system.
This article on PPPoA and PPPoE was written by David Christie, MD at
Network Systems Training (UK) Ltd.
More Networking Protocols and Standards:
• Internet Security and VPN Network Design
• Routing Datagrams
• An Introduction to the Types of VPNs
• The OSI Data Link Layer
• What Is Fabric Networking?
• Integration of IPv6 with IPv4
• NTP Server Systems - The Network Time Protocol
• Internet Protocol versions IPv4, IPv5 and IPv6
• The OSI Session Layer
• X.25 and Frame Relay Overview