Simple Questions: What Is PPPoE And What Does It Do?

These days, most of the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) from all over the World offer broadband Internet subscriptions. And some of them do that via PPPoE. Even if you followed the steps necessary for configuring a PPPoE connection at home, there's still a chance that you don't know what PPPoE means or does. You just type what your ISP tells you to. If you're curious to understand what PPPoE is, then you should read this article. We will try to explain this concept as clearly as we can and with as few acronyms or IT technical terms as possible.

First, A Brief History Lesson About PPPoE & Its Predecessor

OK… we've promised not to use too many acronyms and technical terms.. After all, we called this series "Simple Questions". But to know what PPPoE is, we must first use some technical terms.
As you've probably guessed, PPPoE is an acronym and it stands for Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet. According to Wikipedia, PPPoE was developed by UUNET, Redback Networks (now Ericsson) and RouterWare (now Wind River Systems) in the 2000s, and became quite popular a little later. PPPoE is a networking protocol that derived from another, older protocol, called PPP, which you guessed, stands for Point-to-Point Protocol.

The Point-to-Point Protocol was a networking protocol that allowed communication between two computers, using a serial interface. This protocol was very popular before the 2000s, when dial-up Internet connections were widely used. Back then, the most common situation in which a home user would use PPP was to establish a connection between his or her computer and a server from a telecom company, via a modem and a phone line. These were called dial-up connections and they were a means for the end user to access the Internet.

US Robotics 56K modem

However, Internet grew exponentially over time and technology advanced at a similar pace. A couple of years later, using a dial-up connection wouldn't suffice and today, connecting to the Internet at 28 or 56 kbit/s is unacceptable. It's also worth mentioning that old dial-up connections that used the PPP protocol could only connect one personal computer to the ISP server. Because more and more companies and households wanted to simultaneously connect more than only one computer to the Internet, but also because of the rapid Internet growth and the demand for higher networking speeds, a new networking protocol had to be developed. This is when PPPoE came out.

What is PPPoE?

PPPoE is a network protocol used for encapsulating data frames over Ethernet networks. That means PPPoE is essentially a Hulked-out version of the old PPP protocol. The main improvement it brought is the fact that PPPoE allows a single server connection to be divided between multiple clients, using Ethernet.

I don't know if we managed to help you understand this difference, but maybe a surreal example might do the trick: imagine old dial-up connections like a conversation over the telephone between you and your boss. It's just the two of you who can participate in the conversation. But what if your boss wanted to speak to all your team? If your conversation would be a dial-up connection, all your team would have to gather around the same phone earpiece. It would make for a funny and ineffective conversation, wouldn't it? PPP is just like that: only one to one connections are possible. PPPoE changed that and it allowed more client devices to use the same network in order to connect to one single server. It's like your boss speaking with all your team, but you would have a loudspeaker so that you don't have to crowd around one small earpiece.

Going further, PPPoE is a networking protocol that also offers essential networking features, like authentication, encryption and compression. Because of that, PPPoE is one of the most preferred means of delivering Internet access. Why is that, you might ask. Well, because PPPoE provides authentication and encryption, it means that Internet Service Providers can set and then sell various Internet access subscription plans. And all they have to do to impose a bandwidth limit or filter networking traffic, is for them to give you a unique ID and password, by which they can then identify, meter and sometimes, even filter your Internet traffic.

How Do You Establish A PPPoE Internet Connection?

If your Internet Service Provider uses PPPoE, then it will do at least two things:

  • It will install an Ethernet cable in your home or office;
  • It will assign you with a unique ID (username) and password and
  • Sometimes, depending on your Internet access subscription, your ISP might also give, rent or sell you a modem-router.

If only the first two are true, and your ISP did not provide you with a router (nor did you buy yourself one), then you'll have to configure the PPPoE connection manually, on your computer. If you use Windows 10, then this guide will help you go through all the necessary steps: How To Setup And Use PPPoE Internet Connections In Windows 10.

If you also got yourself a modem-router from your ISP or from aftermarket shops, then you can configure it to automatically connect via PPPoE and then deliver Internet access to all your devices. Most of the routers these days do know how to connect and work with the PPPoE protocol, but each of them has its own user interface, so you'll have to follow the configuration steps that are specific to your router. Don't be afraid to consult its manual for help.

Conclusion

The PPPoE networking protocol is used by many Internet Service Providers all over the world. As a result, many people use this type of network connection in order to access the Internet. If you're one of them and wondered what it means, we hope that our article has helped you understand what it is and what it does. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to share them using the comments form below.