What is Data Communications?

By Zachary Fenell

Communication is the process of sharing a message. A conversation between two people is an example of communication. Data communications refers to the sharing of a virtual message. Electronic communications, like emails and instant messages, as well as phone calls are examples of data communications. Understanding data communications can be complex but here are basics you will need to know.

Basic Components

The basic components of data communications are the same as the typical communication process. You need a sender (transmitter), message (data) and receiver (destination). Take the simple electronic communication method of email for example. The computer you type the email on is the sender, known in data communications as the transmitter. The typed message is the data being communicated. The computer the email is opened on is the destination, the equivalent to the receiver in ordinary communication.


The simplest form of data communications is the simplex channel. In a simplex channel the message is communicated one way, without the option for the receiver to respond. Radio is an example of a simplex channel. Data communications that allows communication to take place back and forth, albeit not at the same time, is known as the half-duplex system. A phone conversation is an example of the half-duplex system. The full-duplex system allows two people to communicate at the same time. For example, instant messaging would be a full-duplex system because two people can be typing at the same time.

The Process

Data communications oftens use the process of serial-transmission--a message is broken down into small data packages and transmitted to its destination. When the message arrives at its destination, the packages are put together in sequential order to resemble the original message. A parity bit is attached to each data package to detect any possible errors. If an error is detected the parity bit will alert you.


Data communications is effected by distance. Long distance communication requires a LAN (Local Area Network) connection, which are usually built into computers. For vast distances, such as a long distance phone call, digitally modulated analog carrier signals are used.


Data communications gives you the ability to easily stay in touch with others. Phones, instant messaging, emails and social networking sites all utilize data communications.