A media access control address (MAC address) of a device is a unique identifier assigned to a network interface controller (NIC). For communications within a network segment, it is used as a network address for most IEEE 802 network technologies, including Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
Within the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model, MAC addresses are used in the medium access control protocol sublayer of the data link layer. As typically represented, MAC addresses are recognizable as six groups of two hexadecimal digits, separated by hyphens, colons, or no separator.
A MAC address may be referred to as the burned-in address, and is also known as an Ethernet hardware address, hardware address, and physical address.
A network node with multiple NICs must have a unique MAC address for each. Sophisticated network equipment such as a multilayer switch or router may require one or more permanently assigned MAC addresses.
MAC addresses are most often assigned by the manufacturer of network interface cards. Each is stored in hardware, such as the card’s read-only memory or by a firmware mechanism. A MAC address typically includes the manufacturer’s organizationally unique identifier (OUI).
MAC addresses are formed according to the principles of two numbering spaces based on Extended Unique Identifiers (EUI) managed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE): EUI-48, which replaces the obsolete term MAC-48, and EUI-64.