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Short for packet-switched data network, a data communications network that is based on the principles of packet switching, as opposed to circuit switching that is used in public telephone networks. Packet-switched networks do not establish physical communication channels between communicating devices like circuit-switched networks do. Instead, signals are formed into fixed-length packets that are affixed with a source and destination address and packet ordering details. The packets then rely on network routers to read the address data and route the packets through the network to their destinations. When the packets arrive at the receiving device, the packet ordering data is used to reassemble the original signal. One advantage of packet-switched networks is that packets from different sources going to different destinations can share common data pathways.

Also called a packet-switched network, or PSN.

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