Here are Cisco's definitions.


The physical layer must generate the electrical, optical, or wireless signals that represent the "1" and "0" on the media. The method of representing the bits is called the signaling method.


Encoding or line encoding is a method of converting a stream of data bits into a predefined "code”. Codes are groupings of bits used to provide a predictable pattern that can be recognized by both the sender and the received. In the case of networking, encoding is a pattern of voltage or current used to represent bits; the 0s and 1s.

I don't understand the difference between these two. When I describe line encoding in my own words, I would say encoding means putting the 1's and 0's in a certain pattern, so both nodes can understand that pattern. The encoding-protocol used defines that pattern. Is this correct?

I do not understand the definition of signaling... These two terms are explained on the same page in my cisco book, but to me signaling seems very similar to encoding. I can't differentiate the two.

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    Signaling is the method by which you define what a one or zero is. Encoding is how you use the 1s and 0s to represent information. – Ron Trunk Mar 3 '15 at 21:52
  • @Ron Thank you. If only Cisco was that clear ;) – user1534664 Mar 3 '15 at 21:53

Signaling defines method (voltage, current, RF, light) will be used to represent a 1 or 0. For example; if I say a 1 is 5 volts and a 0 is 0 volts, this is signaling.

Encoding is how the 1s and 0s will be used. For example; if I say a 1 means "On" and a 0 means "Off", this is encoding.


Click here to view Ron's comment. Here is what he said:

Signaling is the method by which you define what a one or zero is. Encoding is how you use the 1s and 0s to represent information.

Just posting it as an answer since Ron didn't.


Think of Morse Code. The signal is the sound, pulse, or light. The message is encoded using the "dits" and "dahs", for example.

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i Think both definitions are very confusing. the author needs to define them again. i find it useful that enconding is choosing the method of coding the bits with volt, RF, or light. whereas signaling is defining what a zero and one represent. For example, the manchester code is a good example of picking a volt graph to represent a group of one and zeroes whereas the low to high voltage and high to low voltage representing the zero and the one is an example of signaling. if im wrong correct me. this comes from the cisco book.


Signaling is the method used to generate the bits on the wire. Light is the signal generated by fiber cabling, electrical pulse is the signal generated by copper cabling, microwave is the signal generated by wireless communications. Encoding is the way these bits are grouped in light form when put on the fiber wire, in electrical pulse form when put on copper wire, in microwave form when put on the air for wireless communications.

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