What is Network Interface Card – Types, Working & Its Components

Network Interface Card (NIC) is a hardware unit, which is inbuilt inside a computer provided with a slot, it connects the computer to a computer network for communication with other devices via buses. There are many synonyms for network interface card like, network adapter, local area network (LAN) card or physical network interface card, ethernet controller or ethernet adapter, network controller, and connection card. Network interface card supports almost all standard buses for data transfer between the computers or devices. The connectors or buses act as an intermediator for communication converts the communication between various devices from serial communication to parallel communication or parallel communication to serial communication. It also formats data based on the architecture of the network. This article discusses an overview of What is a wireless network interface card, and its types.

What is a Network Interface Card?

Definition: Network interface card NIC is a hardware component, where network controllers are integrated on to a circuit board that uses standard OSI model of 7 layers to communicate and it acts like a trans-receiver, where it can transmit and receives at the same time while communicating with other devices. Suppose if we want to communicate with another device, let us assume the case of client and server, where the communication between them takes place by firstly sending signals to the physical layer, and then transmitting data packets to the network layer which is an interface at TCP/IP. Connection to the motherboard is made using any one of the following via

  • PCI connector
  • ISA connector
  • ISA connector
  • PCI-E
  • FireWire
  • USB
  • Thunderbolt.

The connection to the network is made via any one of the following

Functions of NIC

  • It acts like a translator, which converts data into a digital signal.
  • Communication can be either by using cable wire or by the router which is wireless over the server network
  • To communicate over a long distance a network adapter is used.

Types of Network Interface Cards

There are two types NIC they are,

Ethernet NIC

Ethernet NIC card is a slot for a cable where we have to plug one end of the ethernet cable into the slots of the computer and another end of the cable is plugged into the modem, likewise, various devices are connected to make a communication set up between them. There are three standards in Ethernet they are

  • 5-Base T: It was developed in 1973, which can transmit, paragraphs using coaxial cable up to a distance 1000mts.
  • 10-Base T: It was developed in 1987, it uses twisted cables like telephonic cables for communication.
  • 100-Base T: It is also known as fast ethernet, the speed of data transmitted is very high.
  • Gigabit Ethernet: It is also named as 1000-Base T ethernet, the special feature of this is it increases the network bandwidth up to 10 times, which can transmit up to 1000mbps of data.

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Wireless Network NIC

Wireless network NIC cards consist of a small antenna integrated onto the card, where the communication between various devices is set up wirelessly using the router and various network protocols. One such example of a wireless network NIC card is fiber data digital interface FDDI. In a case where data has to be transmitted over long distances, in such cases, a fiber data digital interface FDDI concept is used which translates data into digital pulses and communicates using optical fiber. FDDI is ring-type architecture, which is of 100mbps, transmission, and retransmission for a long distance is an advantage of FDDI.

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Components of Network Interface Card

The main components of the Network Interface Card are as follows

  • An external Memory is used to store the data temporarily and uses the stored data whenever required while processing the communication.
  • Connectors are used to make the physical link between cables and plugin with the board, this type of connection is especially seen in Ethernet type of NIC cables.
  • A Processor converts the data message into a signal format for communication to take place easily.
  • Different types of standard Buses are plugged into Buses Connector slots, based on the compatibility of the operation process buses are chosen.
  • Jumpers or Dual in package switches are used to control the communication operation, which is either by turning on or turning off the switch.
  • MAC address which is a unique identity address is given to network interface card where ethernet packets are communicated with the computer. MAC address is also known as a physical network address.
  • A router is an NIC device that is used to connect wirelessly to the internet.

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Working of NIC

The Functions of the network interface card is, it acts like a bridge connecting multiple computers using LAN – local area network or router, which is plugged into the NIC card slot. Considering a live scenario of corporate offices, for a better understanding of the concept.

In a company there may be many computers provided with WiFi access, where each employee is assigned with one computer to work when the employee wants to access the company website to update his day to day work status, he is provided with his login credentials. He can only log in to his profile based on two scenarios, one is a proper internet connection which can be either wired or wireless connection and other correct login credentials. Here come a few questions about network interface card NIC concept that is, how the network is connected and how data transfer takes place?

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These computers which are connected to NIC communicate over the internet where the incoming data travels along the media is received by NIC. These bits which are received formatted into frames, CRC (cyclic redundant code) is compared with CRC (cyclic redundant code) in the frame trailer and calculated using CRC (cyclic redundant code) algorithm. If CRC (cyclic redundant code) doesn’t match it means the frame is damaged/changed and it is discarded. This kind of situation is rarely observed in an electrically noisy environment.


Another case where if the CRC (cyclic redundant code) is ok, the destination MAC address is checked, if it is matching the network interface card of the broadcast frame, then the frame is processed forward else discarded. Once the MAC address is verified, the frame header and trailer are stripped creating a packet that is transmitted using network protocols for further processing. This is the actual job of NIC in one direction.

Now for an out-going data, the reverse process is used. The network protocol transfers a packet to the NIC. The NIC adds the source and destination MAC address as the frame header and calculates the CRC for the trailer. Now the frame is ready to transmit. The NIC converts the frame for transmission onto the medium as bit signals.


The advantages of the Network Interface Card are as follows

  • The communication speed using the Internet is high usually in Gigabytes
  • Highly reliable connection
  • Many peripheral devices can be connected using many ports of NIC cards.
  • Bulk data can be shared among many users.


The disadvantages of Network Interface Card are as follows

  • Inconvenient in case of wired cable NIC, as it is not portable like a wireless router
  • The configuration should be proper for better communication.
  • Data is unsecured.


The applications of Network Interface Card are as follows

  • The computer uses NIC for data exchange over a network like documents, images, files, etc.
  • Applicable for wireless communication devices like Firewalls, Bridges, Repeater.
  • Applicable for wired communication devices hubs, switches, router, smartphones, etc.

Thus, this article briefs out about network interface card or network interface controller which is an electronic hardware component integrated with computers. The main purpose of this is to communicate with other devices either wired or wirelessly. In this article, we have seen types of NIC, it’s working with an example, advantages, disadvantages, and applications. The main vendors of network interface cards are Intel, Cisco, D-Link, etc. Here is a question “Which type of Network Interface Card is used in Smartphones?”.