Components, mode, and characteristics of data communication

Data communication is a technique of transferring data between a sender and receiver device over a channel using specific protocols. It goes hand in hand with networking. Data can be exchanged in different modes, and the quality of its transmission can be affected by factors such as attenuation, interference, and noise among others.

Components/elements of data communication

For a data communication process to be complete it is made up of 5 main components or elements. These elements ensure data is securely communicated to the right place at the right time. The main 5 components of data communication and networking are:

Sender device

This is the device which the message is originating from. It is usually a component within a network that is capable of receiving and sending data. The sender device generates the message and the address of the receiver device and then sends it to the medium for transmission.

Receiver device

Just like the sender, it is a device that is capable of receiving and sending data. In this case the device act as a data receiver. When the message is sent over the medium the receiver device gets it from the channel and then interprets the message.

Message/ data

This is the data that is being communicated. The message can include many things to ensure it reaches the right destination. It includes the real message, the address of the sender and receiver, the protocols to be used, and error checking among other techniques. All this help to ensure the message reaches the right recipient of the message.


This is the pathway that the data use from sender to receiver. Networking channels are categorized into 2, wired and wireless. In wireless media, we have infrared, microwave, and radio frequencies as the main channels used. On the other hand, wired media includes two copper wires, twisted pairs, coaxial, and fiber optic cables. 


For two or more devices to communicate they require to have rules and regulations for engagement. Protocols are rules and guidelines that any communicating device has to follow to communicate within a given network. 

Examples of protocols used in networking are Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), Internet Protocol (IP), User Datagram Protocol (UDP), Telnet, Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), Post of Protocol (POP), and Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP) among others

Types of data communication/ transmission mode

Mode of data communication referred to how the data is transferred from one device to another. There are 3 main types of data communication used in networking.


The data moves only in one direction. The device act as either a sender or a receiver and not vice versa. It works in types of communication where data flows in one direction. Examples of simplex communications are radio and TV transmission, traffic light systems, etc. In all these systems your TV or radio acts as a receiver of the signal.


In this mode of communication, data can move in both directions but not at the same time. Both devices can act as either a receiver or sender but not at the same time. Device A can send the data while device B receives it. When device A finishes sending only then can device B send its message. The main example is a walkie-talkie and two-way radio with a push-to-talk button.


This is a more complex communication where the message can be transmitted in both directions simultaneously. Both the sender and receiver devices can send and receive data at the same time. This is the most common mode of data communication and is faster. Examples of full-duplex communication include telephone communication, internet connections, and internal system communications among others.

Factors that affect the quality of data communication

Interference and noise

Interference of the signal can affect the quality of data flow from one point to the next. The interference can come from other communication channels, a natural phenomenon like lightning, or other factors that can distort the data. For those channels that transmit data as an electrical signal, the main noise and interference are from electromagnetic sources.


This means the amount of data that can be transmitted on a channel at the same time. The higher the bandwidth the faster and better quality of communication.


This is the time taken for the message to move from the source to the destination. It is the delay of time the packets take from one point to the next. The lower the latency the better the quality of the data. Data like video communication requires low latency to ensure they can stream without delay.


This is the weakening of the signal as it moves from one point to the next. As the signal move from the source, it becomes weak. This affects the quality of data. The attenuation depends on the type of media used for transmission.


In data communication, a variety of protocols are used for data transmission. Different protocols use different error checking and other techniques to ensure quality and secure data transmission. Each protocol is suited for different purposes and it comes with its advantages and disadvantages.

Hardware and media

For networking and data communication to happen we need media to act as communication channels and networking hardware. The media affect the quality, speed, and security of data when data is in transit. Networking hardware on the other hand will be used as the source, destination, or relay station for data. The better the hardware and media used the better the quality of the data.

Characteristics for effective data communication

For a data communication process to be effective enough and meet its objective it should have the following characteristics.

  1. Delivery: the message should be delivered to the right destination. The system should make sure it is only the respective destination gets the message and not any other.
  2. Timeliness: the data should reach the destination on time. Data is as good as the time it reaches its destination. The wrong time for data delivery makes it useless.
  3. Accuracy: the system should have a mechanism in place to ensure data is accurate as possible. It should check errors, omissions, or any addition of data to ensure accuracy.
  4. Jitter: this is the inconsistency of packet delivery from source to destination. If for example, a packet is supposed to arrive at 20ms, then it starts to vary from 20,5,40,2 and so on that is the jitter. It is the variance in the latency of data.