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Multiple Access Protocols in Computer Network

The Data Link Layer is responsible for transmission of data between two nodes. Its main functions are- 

Data Link control – 
The data link control is responsible for reliable transmission of message over transmission channel by using techniques like framing, error control and flow control. For Data link control refer to – Stop and Wait ARQ 

Multiple Access Control – 
If there is a dedicated link between the sender and the receiver then data link control layer is sufficient, however if there is no dedicated link present then multiple stations can access the channel simultaneously. Hence multiple access protocols are required to decrease collision and avoid crosstalk. For example, in a classroom full of students, when a teacher asks a question and all the students (or stations) start answering simultaneously (send data at same time) then a lot of chaos is created( data overlap or data lost) then it is the job of the teacher (multiple access protocols) to manage the students and make them answer one at a time. 

Thus, protocols are required for sharing data on non dedicated channels. Multiple access protocols can be subdivided further as – 

1. Random Access Protocol: In this, all stations have same superiority that is no station has more priority than another station. Any station can send data depending on medium’s state( idle or busy). It has two features: 

  1. There is no fixed time for sending data
  2. There is no fixed sequence of stations sending data

The Random access protocols are further subdivided as: 

(a) ALOHA – It was designed for wireless LAN but is also applicable for shared medium. In this, multiple stations can transmit data at the same time and can hence lead to collision and data being garbled. 

Vulnerable Time = 2* Frame transmission time
Throughput =  G exp{-2*G}
Maximum throughput = 0.184 for G=0.5
Vulnerable Time =  Frame transmission time
Throughput =  G exp{-*G}
Maximum throughput = 0.368 for G=1

For more information on ALOHA refer – LAN Technologies 

(b) CSMA – Carrier Sense Multiple Access ensures fewer collisions as the station is required to first sense the medium (for idle or busy) before transmitting data. If it is idle then it sends data, otherwise it waits till the channel becomes idle. However there is still chance of collision in CSMA due to propagation delay. For example, if station A wants to send data, it will first sense the medium.If it finds the channel idle, it will start sending data. However, by the time the first bit of data is transmitted (delayed due to propagation delay) from station A, if station B requests to send data and senses the medium it will also find it idle and will also send data. This will result in collision of data from station A and B. 

CSMA access modes- 

(c) CSMA/CD – Carrier sense multiple access with collision detection. Stations can terminate transmission of data if collision is detected. For more details refer – Efficiency of CSMA/CD 

(d) CSMA/CA – Carrier sense multiple access with collision avoidance. The process of collisions detection involves sender receiving acknowledgement signals. If there is just one signal(its own) then the data is successfully sent but if there are two signals(its own and the one with which it has collided) then it means a collision has occurred. To distinguish between these two cases, collision must have a lot of impact on received signal. However it is not so in wired networks, so CSMA/CA is used in this case. 

CSMA/CA avoids collision by: 

  1. Interframe space – Station waits for medium to become idle and if found idle it does not immediately send data (to avoid collision due to propagation delay) rather it waits for a period of time called Interframe space or IFS. After this time it again checks the medium for being idle. The IFS duration depends on the priority of station.
  2. Contention Window – It is the amount of time divided into slots. If the sender is ready to send data, it chooses a random number of slots as wait time which doubles every time medium is not found idle. If the medium is found busy it does not restart the entire process, rather it restarts the timer when the channel is found idle again.
  3. Acknowledgement – The sender re-transmits the data if acknowledgement is not received before time-out.

2. Controlled Access: 
In this, the data is sent by that station which is approved by all other stations. For further details refer – Controlled Access Protocols 

3. Channelization: 
In this, the available bandwidth of the link is shared in time, frequency and code to multiple stations to access channel simultaneously. 



Advantages :

Disadvantages :

Features of multiple access protocols:

Contention-based access: Multiple access protocols are typically contention-based, meaning that multiple devices compete for access to the communication channel. This can lead to collisions if two or more devices transmit at the same time, which can result in data loss and decreased network performance.

Carrier Sense Multiple Access (CSMA): CSMA is a widely used multiple access protocol in which devices listen for carrier signals on the communication channel before transmitting. If a carrier signal is detected, the device waits for a random amount of time before attempting to transmit to reduce the likelihood of collisions.

Collision Detection (CD): CD is a feature of some multiple access protocols that allows devices to detect when a collision has occurred and take appropriate action, such as backing off and retrying the transmission.

Collision Avoidance (CA): CA is a feature of some multiple access protocols that attempts to avoid collisions by assigning time slots to devices for transmission.

Token passing: Token passing is a multiple access protocol in which devices pass a special token between each other to gain access to the communication channel. Devices can only transmit data when they hold the token, which ensures that only one device can transmit at a time.

Bandwidth utilization: Multiple access protocols can affect the overall bandwidth utilization of a network. For example, contention-based protocols may result in lower bandwidth utilization due to collisions, while token passing protocols may result in higher bandwidth utilization due to the controlled access to the communication channel.

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