ECE 478

Fundamentals of Computer Networks
Catalog Data: 

ECE 478 - Fundamentals of Computer Networks (3 units)

Description: Introduction to computer networks and protocols. Involves study of the ISO open systems interconnection model, with emphasis on the physical, data link, network and transport layers. Discussion of IEEE 802, OSI, and internet protocols.

Grading: Regular grades are awarded for this course: A B C D E

ECE 275 and ECE 310

Textbook: Peterson, Larry L., and Bruce S. Davie. Computer Networks: A Systems Approach. 5th ed. Morgan Kaufmann, 2011.


  • Bertsekas, Dimitri, and Robert Gallager. Data Networks. 2nd ed. Pearson, 1992.
  • Tanenbaum, Andrew, and David Wetherall. Computer Networks. 5th ed. Pearson, 2011.
  • Kurose, James, and Keith Ross. Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach. 5th ed. Pearson, 2009.
Course Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of this course, the student will understand:

  1. Network design principles and performance metrics
  2. The mechanisms and protocols for reliable data communication via a computer network
  3. How to evaluate the performance of different network architectures and protocols.
  4. Schematics of computer network architectures
  5. Applications of computer networks.
  6. The OSI layering model
  7. Direct link networks
  8. Medium access control
  9. Wireless network technologies
  10. Internetworking
  11. End-to-end protocols
  12. Congestion control and resource allocation
  13. Network security
Course Topics: 

Computer networks

  • Schematics of computer networks
  • Network architectures
  • Applications of computer networks
  • The OSI layering model
  • Example networks
  • Network performance metrics

Direct link networks

  • Hardware building blocks
  • Network links
  • Bit encoding
  • Framing, error detection and correction
  • ARQ: retransmission mechanisms

Medium access

  • Channel allocation problem
  • Multiple access protocols
  • Ethernet, wireless LAN, Bluetooth, WiFi, WiMax


  • Simple internetworking
  • Routing algorithms
  • Internet routing
  • Multicast routing

End-to-end protocols

  • Simple transport protocols
  • Reliable transport service (TCP)
  • Flow-control mechanisms

Congestion control and resource allocation

  • Resource allocation problem
  • Classification of resource allocation methods
  • Evaluation metrics
  • TCP congestion control
  • Congestion avoidance mechanisms


  • Email
  • The World Wide Web (WWW)
  • The Domain Name System (DNS)
  • Web services

Network security

  • Basics of cryptography
  • Simple cryptosystems
  • Symmetric key cryptography
  • Hash functions
  • Public key cryptography
  • Authentication protocols
  • Transport layer and IP security
Class/Laboratory Schedule: 

Two 75-minute lectures per week

Relationship to Student Outcomes: 

ECE 478 contributes directly to the following specific electrical and computer engineering student outcomes of the ECE department:

  • Ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science and engineering (high)
  • Ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data (medium)
  • Ability to identify, formulate and solve engineering problems (high)
  • Understanding of professional and ethical responsibility (low)
  • Ability to communicate effectively (medium)
  • Knowledge of contemporary issues (medium) 
  • Ability to use the techniques, skills and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice (high)
Prepared by: 
Ming Li
Prepared Date: 

University of Arizona College of Engineering