An L4 connection refers to a connection established at the Layer 4 (Transport Layer) of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model. The Transport Layer is responsible for end-to-end communication and data transfer between devices over a network. The two main protocols used at this layer are TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol).

Key Concepts of L4 Connection

  1. TCP (Transmission Control Protocol):
    • Connection-Oriented: TCP establishes a connection before transmitting data, ensuring that data is delivered reliably and in order.
    • Three-Way Handshake: The connection process involves a three-way handshake (SYN, SYN-ACK, ACK) to establish a reliable connection.
    • Flow Control: Manages the rate of data transmission between sender and receiver.
    • Error Checking: Includes mechanisms for error detection and correction.
  2. UDP (User Datagram Protocol):
    • Connectionless: UDP does not establish a connection and sends data packets without guaranteeing delivery or order.
    • Low Latency: Used for applications where speed is more critical than reliability, such as video streaming or online gaming.
    • No Error Checking: Minimal overhead compared to TCP, but lacks mechanisms for ensuring data integrity and reliability.

Establishing an L4 Connection

TCP Example

  1. Three-Way Handshake:
    • SYN: The client sends a synchronization (SYN) packet to the server to initiate a connection.
    • SYN-ACK: The server responds with a synchronization acknowledgment (SYN-ACK) packet.
    • ACK: The client sends an acknowledgment (ACK) packet back to the server, completing the connection setup.
  2. Data Transfer: Once the connection is established, data can be transmitted reliably between the client and server.

  3. Connection Termination: The connection is closed using a four-step process (FIN, ACK, FIN, ACK) to ensure both sides gracefully terminate the connection.

UDP Example

  1. No Handshake: UDP does not use a handshake process. Data packets (datagrams) are sent directly from the source to the destination.
  2. Data Transfer: Packets are sent individually and may arrive out of order or be lost. The application layer is responsible for handling these issues if necessary.

Use Cases for L4 Connections

  1. Web Browsing: Uses TCP to ensure reliable delivery of web pages and resources.
  2. Email: Uses TCP for reliable transmission of emails and attachments.
  3. Streaming Media: Often uses UDP for live video and audio streaming to minimize latency.
  4. Online Gaming: Uses UDP for real-time interaction and low latency, accepting occasional packet loss.

Example from a Big Company: Netflix

Netflix uses both TCP and UDP to deliver streaming content to its users. While TCP is used for secure, reliable connections to handle account management and browsing the catalog, UDP is leveraged for streaming video content to minimize latency and provide a smoother viewing experience.

Importance of L4 Connections

  1. Reliability: Ensures data is transmitted accurately and in the correct order (TCP).
  2. Efficiency: Provides mechanisms for flow control, error checking, and congestion control (TCP).
  3. Speed: Offers low-latency communication for real-time applications (UDP).


An L4 connection refers to communication established at the Transport Layer of the OSI model, primarily using TCP for reliable, connection-oriented communication, or UDP for fast, connectionless communication. Understanding L4 connections is essential for ensuring efficient and reliable data transfer across networks.

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Disclaimer: This post was generated with the help of ChatGPT