n. A globally unique 48-bit hardware address assigned to each device on a network. Every system on a physical network, like Ethernet or Token Ring, includes a peripheral called a network controller. This chip is the processor’s interface to the physical communications medium. As part of its initialization, the network controller must be fed a unique hardware address to use when communicating over the network. In the case of Ethernet, the hardware address is a 48-bit value. To guarantee global uniqueness, the upper 24 bits are controlled by the IEEE, which allocates them to individual device manufacturers. See OUI for more information about obtaining a block of Ethernet addresses for your company.
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