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RTL8201 Ethernet PHY chip

A PHY, an abbreviation for "physical layer", is an electronic circuit, usually implemented as an integrated circuit, required to implement physical layer functions of the OSI model in a network interface controller.

A PHY connects a link layer device (often called MAC as an acronym for medium access control) to a physical medium such as an optical fiber or copper cable. A PHY device typically includes both Physical Coding Sublayer (PCS) and Physical Medium Dependent (PMD) layer functionality.[1]

-PHY may also be used as a suffix to form a short name referencing a specific physical layer protocol, for example M-PHY.

Ethernet physical transceiver[edit]

Micrel KS8721CL - 3.3V Single Power Supply 10/100BASE-TX/FX MII Physical Layer Transceiver

The Ethernet PHY is a component that operates at the physical layer of the OSI network model. It implements the Ethernet physical layer portion of the 1000BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, and 10BASE-T standards.

A PHY chip (PHYceiver) is commonly found on Ethernet devices. Its purpose is to provide analog signal physical access to the link. It is usually with a Media Independent Interface (MII) interfaced to a MAC chip in a microcontroller or other system that takes care of the higher layer functions.

More specifically, the Ethernet PHY is a chip that implements the hardware send and receive function of Ethernet frames; it interfaces between the analog domain of Ethernet's line modulation and the digital domain of link-layer packet signaling.[2] The PHY usually does not handle MAC addressing, as that is the link layer's job. Similarly, Wake-on-LAN and Boot ROM functionality is implemented in the network interface card (NIC), which may have PHY, MAC, and other functionality integrated into one chip or as separate chips.

Examples include the Microsemi SimpliPHY and SynchroPHY VSC82xx/84xx/85xx/86xx family, Marvell Alaska 88E1310/88E1310S/88E1318/88E1318S Gigabit Ethernet transceivers and offerings from Intel[3] and ICS.[4]

Other applications[edit]


  1. ^ Mauricio Arregoces; Maurizio Portolani. "Data Center Fundamentals". Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  2. ^ "microcontroller - what is the difference between PHY and MAC chip - Electrical Engineering Stack Exchange". 2013-07-11. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  3. ^ Intel PHY controllers brochure
  4. ^ - ICS1890 10Base-T/100Base-TX Integrated PHYceiver datasheet