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In telecommunications and computer networking, a network packet is a formatted unit of data carried by a packet-switched network. A packet consists of control information and user data; the latter is also known as the payload. Control information provides data for delivering the payload (e.g., source and destination network addresses, error detection codes, or sequencing information). Typically, control information is found in packet headers and trailers.
In packet switching, the bandwidth of the transmission medium is shared between multiple communication sessions, in contrast to circuit switching, in which circuits are preallocated for the duration of one session and data is typically transmitted as a continuous bit stream.