The data link layer is actually divided into two sublayers:
- Logical Link Control (LLC): This upper sublayer defines the software processes that provide services to the network layer protocols. It places information in the frame that identifies which network layer protocol is being used for the frame. This information allows multiple Layer 3 protocols, such as IPv4 and IPv6, to utilize the same network interface and media.
- Media Access Control (MAC): This lower sublayer defines the media access processes performed by the hardware. It provides data link layer addressing and delimiting of data according to the physical signaling requirements of the medium and the type of data link layer protocol in use.
Separating the data link layer into sublayers allows for one type of frame defined by the upper layer to access different types of media defined by the lower layer. Such is the case in many LAN technologies, including Ethernet.
The figure illustrates how the data link layer is separated into the LLC and MAC sublayers. The LLC communicates with the network layer while the MAC sublayer allows various network access technologies. For instance, the MAC sublayer communicates with Ethernet LAN technology to send and receive frames over copper or fiber-optic cable. The MAC sublayer also communicates with wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to send and receive frames wirelessly.