In telecommunications, a point-to-point connection refers to a communications connection between two communication endpoints or nodes. An example is a telephone call, in which one telephone is connected with one other, and what is said by one caller can only be heard by the other. This is contrasted with a point-to-multipoint or broadcast connection, in which many nodes can receive information transmitted by one node. Other examples of point-to-point communications links are leased lines and microwave radio relay.
The term is also used in computer networking and computer architecture to refer to a wire or other connection that links only two computers or circuits, as opposed to other network topologies such as buses or crossbar switches which can connect many communications devices.
Point-to-point is sometimes abbreviated as P2P. This usage of P2P is distinct from P2P meaning peer-to-peer in the context of file sharing networks or other data-sharing protocols between peers.
In a local network, repeater hubs or switches provide basic connectivity. A hub provides a point-to-multipoint (or simply multipoint) circuit in which all connected client nodes share the network bandwidth. A switch on the other hand provides a series of point-to-point circuits, via microsegmentation, which allows each client node to have a dedicated circuit and the added advantage of having full-duplex connections.
From the OSI model's layer perspective, both switches and repeater hubs provide point-to-point connections on the physical layer. However, on the data link layer, a repeater hub provides point-to-multipoint connectivity – each frame is forwarded to all nodes – while a switch provides virtual point-to-point connections – each unicast frame is only forwarded to the destination node.
Within many switched telecommunications systems, it is possible to establish a permanent circuit. One example might be a telephone in the lobby of a public building, which is programmed to ring only the number of a telephone dispatcher. "Nailing down" a switched connection saves the cost of running a physical circuit between the two points. The resources in such a connection can be released when no longer needed, for example, a television circuit from a parade route back to the studio.