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Multiple Access

| | Saturday, April 25, 2009

Multiple Access

In previous post we discussed data link control, a mechanism which provides a link with reliable communication. In the protocols we described, we assumed that there is an available dedicated link (or channel) between the sender and the receiver. This assumption may or may not be true. If, indeed, we have a dedicated link, as when we connect to the Internet using PPP as the data link control protocol, then the assumption is true and we do not need anything else. On the other hand, if we use our cellular phone to connect to another cellular phone, the channel (the band allocated to the vendor company) is not dedicated. A person a few feet away from us may be using the same channel to talk to her friend. We can consider the data link layer as two sublayers. The upper sublayer is responsible for data link control, and the lower sublayer is responsible for resolving access to the shared media. If the channel is dedicated, we do not need the lower sublayer. the IEEE has actually made this division for LANs. The upper sublayer that is responsible for flow and error control is called the logical link control (LLC) layer; the lower sublayer that is mostly responsible for multipleaccess resolution is called the media access control (MAC) layer. When nodes or stations are connected and use a common link, called a multipoint or broadcast link, we need a multiple-access protocol to coordinate access to the link. The problem of controlling the access to the medium is similar to the rules of speaking in an assembly. The procedures guarantee that the right to speak is upheld and ensure that two people do not speak at the same time, do not interrupt each other, do not monopolize the discussion, and so on. The situation is similar for multipoint networks. Many formal protocols have been devised to handle access to a shared link. We categorize them into three groups.


In random access or contention methods, no station is superior to another station and none is assigned the control over another. No station permits, or does not permit,another station to send. At each instance, a station that has data to send uses a procedure defined by the protocol to make a decision on whether or not to send. This decision depends on the state of the medium (idle or busy). In other words, each station can transmit when it desires on the condition that it follows the predefined procedure, including the testing of the state of the medium. Two features give this method its name. First, there is no scheduled time for a station to transmit. Transmission is random among the stations. That is why these methods are called random access. Second, no rules specify which station should send next. Stations compete with one another to access the medium. That is why these methods are also called contention methods. In a random access method, each station has the right to the medium without being controlled by any other station. However, if more than one station tries to send, there is an access conflict--collision--and the frames will be either destroyed or modified. To avoid access conflict or to resolve it when it happens, each station follows a procedure that answers the following questions:

#When can the station access the medium?
#What can the station do if the medium is busy?
#How can the station determine the success or failure of the transmission?
#What can the station do if there is an access conflict?

The random access methods we study in this chapter have evolved from a very interesting protocol known as ALOHA, which used a very simple procedure called multiple access (MA). The method was improved with the addition of a procedure that forces the station to sense the medium before transmitting. This was called carrier sense multiple access. This method later evolved into two parallel methods: carrier sense multiple access with collision detection (CSMA/CD) and carrier sense multiple access with collision avoidance (CSMA/CA). CSMA/CD tells the station what to do when a collision is detected. CSMA/CA tries to avoid the collision.

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