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Collision Avoidance

| | Saturday, April 25, 2009

Carrier Sense Multiple Access with
Collision Avoidance (CSMA/CA)

The basic idea behind CSMA/CD is that a station needs to be able to receive while transmitting to detect a collision. When there is no collision, the station receives one signal: its own signal. When there is a collision, the station receives two signals: its own signal and the signal transmitted by a second station. To distinguish between these two cases, the received signals in these two cases must be significantly different. In other words, the signal from the second station needs to add a significant amount of energy to the one created by the first station. In a wired network, the received signal has almost the same energy as the sent signal because either the length of the cable is short or there are repeaters that amplify the energy between the sender and the receiver. This means that in a collision, the detected energy almost doubles. However, in a wireless network, much of the sent energy is lost in transmission. The received signal has very little energy. Therefore, a collision may add only 5 to 10 percent additional energy. This is not useful for effective collision detection. We need to avoid collisions on wireless networks because they cannot be detected. Carder sense multiple access with collision avoidance (CSMA/CA) was invented for this network. Collisions are avoided through the use of CSMA/CA's three strategies: the interframe space, the contention window, and acknowledgments.

Interframe Space (IFS)

First, collisions are avoided by deferring transmission even if the channel is found idle. When an idle channel is found, the station does not send immediately. It waits for a period of time called the interframe space or IFS. Even though the channel may appear idle when it is sensed, a distant station may have already started transmitting. The distant station's signal has not yet reached this station. The IFS time allows the front of the transmitted signal by the distant station to reach this station. If after the IFS time the channel is still idle, the station can send, but it still needs to wait a time equal to the contention time (described next). The IFS variable can also be used to prioritize stations or frame types. For example, a station that is assigned a shorter IFS has a higher priority.

Contention Window

The contention window is an amount of time divided into slots. A station that is ready to send chooses a random number of slots as its wait time. The number of slots in the window changes according to the binary exponential back-off strategy. This means that it is set to one slot the first time and then doubles each time the station cannot detect an idle channel after the IFS time. This is very similar to the p-persistent method except that a random outcome defines the number of slots taken by the waiting station. One interesting point about the contention window is that the station needs to sense the channel after each time slot. However, if the station finds the channel busy, it does not restart the process; it just stops the timer and restarts it when the channel is sensed as idle. This gives priority to the station with the longest waiting time.


With all these precautions, there still may be a collision resulting in destroyed data. In addition, the data may be corrupted during the transmission. The positive acknowledgment and the time-out timer can help guarantee that the receiver has received the frame.


Note that the channel needs to be sensed before and after the IFS. The channel also needs to be sensed during the contention time. For each time slot of the contention window, the channel is sensed. If it is found idle, the timer continues; if the channel is found busy, the timer is stopped and continues after the timer becomes idle again.

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