What is the PPPoE network protocol?

Anton P. | June 23, 2022

PPPoE (Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet) is a network protocol with the means to encapsulate PPP frames within Ethernet frames. Its purpose is to merge the encryption and authentication benefits from PPP with the support for multiple LAN users.

The conventional PPP might have been enough when a single device per household used the internet at once. The need for PPPoE increased with the rapid growth of the internet and the DSL services. The latter relates to internet access delivered through middlemen like modems or telephone lines.

PPPoE is also helpful to Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The network protocol allows ISPs to control their clients’ connections to the internet by monitoring bandwidth limits or filtering traffic.

pppoe

What do we mean by Ethernet and LAN?

Ethernet is a term used to describe wired internet connections that use cables and can also connect to LAN. LAN (Local Area Network) refers to the collection of internet-connected devices in a single locale, like an apartment or office. Ethernet is the opposite of Wi-Fi, a wireless method for helping devices go online.

PPPoE meaning

PPPoE is a network protocol that helps Ethernet provide the same connection to multiple devices simultaneously. It functions on broadband connections like internet access via routers or modems.

Many but not all ISPs integrate it to provide internet services to clients. PPPoE helps distinguish between separate clients for billing and supplying DSL services.

It also assists with IP allocations and tracking data usage. If your ISP supplies digital subscriber line services, you likely use PPPoE. In some cases, routers come with support for this protocol, letting you enable it via router settings.

Traditional Ethernet does not support many vital functions like authentication and encryption. PPPoE brings these PPP advantages to Ethernet networks. Furthermore, PPPoE connections escape the inherent downsides of point-to-point protocol.

The latter process means that PPP supports only one-on-one connections. With PPP over Ethernet, this issue gets resolved by supporting multiple connections from one node.

Is the PPPoE network protocol still used?

Some argue that alternatives like 802.1X might be suitable replacements for PPPoE. However, the chances are that many providers still rely on it in their architectures.

Likely, the providers do not see anything threatening or impractical with their current setup. Therefore, the necessity for a grand transition to a new procedure may not seem worthwhile.

One reason to know whether your ISP uses PPPoE is for new wireless system purchases. If it lacks support for the protocol, it might cause some issues. While cable providers supply their services without PPPoE, fiber or DSL clients can suffer from such incompatibilities.

PPPoE vs. DHCP

DHCP or Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol is responsible for automatically allocating IP addresses. On the other end, we have PPPoE, a protocol for encapsulating PPP frames within Ethernet frames. There is little to no overlap between their procedures. Their purpose and use cases are different, and one cannot be better than the other.

How do PPPoE connections work?

Service providers using PPPoE dedicate a unique username and password to each client. It helps distinguish between them. ISPs also equip an access concentrator to support many clients instead of creating dedicated connections. Furthermore, the protocol belongs to network access, which is the lowest layer of the TCP/IP protocol hierarchy.

Essentially, it establishes client-server relationships. After all, it allows more devices to connect to the internet while relying on a single physical connection.

  • PADI or PPPoE Active Discovery Initiation. The host sends a broadcast packet containing the MAC address of the computer. Before that, the device also finds the DSL access concentrator.
  • PADO or PPPoE Active Discovery Offer. The computer receives a response containing the MAC address of the DSL access concentrator.
  • PADR or PPPoE Active Discovery Request. In this stage, the computer confirms to begin the PPPoE connection.
  • PADS or PPPoE Active Discovery Session-confirmation. The DLS access concentrator confirms the PADR and fully establishes the connection.
  • PADT stands for PPPoE Active Discovery Termination. The connection ends. Both users’ devices and access concentrators can initiate the termination.

Essentially, the procedure gets divided into two parts. The first, known as the Discovery stage, happens when the host initiates a PPPoE session. It must pinpoint an Ethernet MAC address and generate a session ID.

The second stage is Session, meaning that once the host and access concentrators have all the necessary information, they will begin the connection. Then, they start using point-to-point connections over Ethernet.

Can you establish a PPPoE connection?

Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet essentially manages how data travels over a network. It follows a series of instructions managing the connection between devices and to the internet supplied by ISPs.

PPPoE also carries several benefits for security and speed with its authentication, compression, and encryption routines. For instance, compression of data sent over the internet could allow more traffic. Thus, it could speed up connections.

To initiate PPPoE connections, users will need unique usernames and passwords, plus modems or routers compatible with them. Your ISP might already use it or provide support for it. Usually, cable and fiber providers do not integrate PPPoE. However, it might be a part of the routine followed by DSL internet providers.

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Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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