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Hop count

Hop count

(also hop limit)

Hop count definition

The hop count signifies a measurement that denotes the quantity of intermediate devices, like routers, through which a data packet needs to pass in order to arrive at its intended destination within a network. By preventing routing loops and identifying the optimal path for data transfer, hop count serves as an essential factor. For certain routing protocols, the hop count is employed as the principal metric for choosing the most suitable route connecting the source and target nodes.

Hop count examples

  • In a small local network with a single router between the source and destination devices, the hop count is 1.
  • In a larger network, the hop count may increase as the data packet traverses multiple routers to reach its destination.

Hop count and routing protocols

Different routing protocols use hop count in various ways:

  • Distance-vector routing protocols, like the Routing Information Protocol (RIP), use hop count as the sole metric to determine the best route.
  • Link-state routing protocols, such as Open Shortest Path First (OSPF), use a more complex metric, considering link speed and reliability alongside hop count.
  • Hybrid routing protocols, like the Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol (EIGRP), combine features of both distance-vector and link-state protocols, using hop count as one of multiple factors for route selection.

Hop count pros and cons


  • Simple to implement and understand.
  • Can help prevent routing loops by limiting the number of hops a packet can traverse.


  • May not always select the most efficient path, because it does not consider other factors like link speed or reliability.
  • Can lead to suboptimal routing decisions in complex network topologies.

Tips to optimize hop count:

  • Use more advanced routing protocols that consider additional factors for route selection.
  • Regularly monitor and analyze network performance to identify potential issues and optimize network topology.

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