Terminal adapter for X.21
Two data stations (terminals, stations) each comprising a DCE and a DTE, connected via a network.

A data circuit-terminating equipment[1] (DCE) is a device that sits between the data terminal equipment (DTE) and a data transmission circuit. It is also called data communication(s) equipment[2][3][4] and data carrier equipment.[citation needed] Usually, the DTE device is the terminal (or computer), and the DCE is a modem.

In a data station, the DCE performs functions such as signal conversion, coding, and line clocking and may be a part of the DTE or intermediate equipment.[3] Interfacing equipment may be required to couple the DTE into a transmission circuit or channel and from a transmission circuit or channel into the DTE.


Although the terms are most commonly used with RS-232, several data communication standards define different types of interfaces between a DCE and a DTE. The DCE is a device that communicates with a DTE device in these standards. Standards that use this nomenclature include:

A general rule is that DCE devices provide the clock signal (internal clocking) and the DTE device synchronizes on the provided clock (external clocking). D-sub connectors follow another rule for pin assignment. DTE devices usually transmit on pin connector number 2 and receive on pin connector number 3. DCE devices are just the opposite: pin connector number 2 receives and pin connector number 3 transmits the signals.

When two devices, that are both DTE or both DCE, must be connected together without a modem or a similar media translator between them, a crossover cable must be used, e.g. a null modem for RS-232 or an Ethernet crossover cable/body

See also


  1. ^ TIA-232-F Interface Between Data Terminal Equipment and Data Circuit-Terminating Equipment Employing Serial Binary Data Interchange. 1997.
  2. ^ EIA standard RS-232-C: Interface between Data Terminal Equipment and Data Communication Equipment Employing Serial Binary Data Interchange. Washington: Electronic Industries Association. Engineering Dept. 1969. OCLC 38637094.
  3. ^ a b DIN 44302 Datenübertragung - Begriffe. Vol. 8. 1966. pp. 244–246. doi:10.1524/itit.1966.8.16.244. ((cite book)): |periodical= ignored (help)
  4. ^ MIL-STD-188-100, pg. 24, Fig 4.3-1, 1972.