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Media Access Method :

What is a Media Access Method ?

A media access method refers to the manner in which a computer gains and controls access
to the network’s physical medium (e.g., cable). Common media access methods include the

• Token Passing
• Demand Priority

One of the primary concerns with media access is how to prevent packets from colliding
when two or more computers try to transmit simultaneously. Each of the methods listed
above takes a different approach to this problem.

What is CSMA/CD?

CSMA/CD stands for Carrier-Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection. It is a media
access method which means it defines how the network places data on the cable and how it
takes it off. CSMA/CD specifies how bus topologies such as Ethernet handle transmission
collisions. A collision occurs when two or more computers transmit signals at the same time.

"Carrier Sense" means that each station on the LAN continually listens to (tests) the cable
for the presence of a signal prior to transmitting. "Multiple Access" means that there are
many computers attempting to transmit and compete for the opportunity to send data (i.e.,
they are in contention). "Collision Detection" means that when a collision is detected, the
stations will stop transmitting and wait a random length of time before retransmitting.

CSMA/CD works best in an environment where relatively fewer, longer data frames are
transmitted. This is in contrast to token passing which works best with a relatively large
amount of short data frames. Because CSMA/CD works to control or manage collisions
rather than prevent them, network performance can be degraded with heavy traffic. The
greater the traffic, the greater the number of collisions and retransmissions.

CSMA/CD is used on Ethernet networks.

Describe how CSMA/CD operates

CSMA/CD is a Media Access Control (MAC) method designed to control the number of
collisions that occur on a network. In its most simple form it operates as follows:

1. A station that wishes to transmit on the network checks to see if the cable is free.
2. If the cable is free, the station starts transmitting. 3. However, another station
may have detected a free cable at the same instant and also start transmitting. The
result is a "collision." 4. Once the collision is detected, all stations immediately stop
transmitting. 5. Stations then wait a random length of time before checking the cable
and then retransmit

What is CSMA/CA?

CSMA/CA stands for Carrier-Sense Multiple Access with Collision Avoidance and is a media
access method very similar to CSMA/CD. The difference is that the CD (collision detection)
is changed to CA (collision avoidance). Instead of detecting and reacting to collisions,
CSMA/CA tries to avoid them by having each computer signal its intention to transmit
before actually transmitting. In effect, the transmitting computer gives a 'heads up' prior to

Although CSMA/CA can prevent collisions, it comes with a cost in the form of the additional
overhead incurred by having each workstation broadcast it's intention prior to transmitting.
Thus, CSMA/CA is slower than CSMA./CD.

CSMA/CA is used on Apple networks.

What is a token passing?

Token passing is a media access method by which collisions are prevented. A collision
results when two computers transmit a signal at the same time.

Collisions are eliminated under token passing because only a computer that possesses a
free token (a small data frame) is allowed to transmit. The token passing method also
allows different priorities to be assigned to different stations on the ring. Transmissions from
a stations with higher priority take precedence over stations with lower priority.

Token passing works best in an environment where a relatively large number of shorter
data frames are being transmitted. (As opposed to CSMA/CD which works best in an
environment where relatively fewer, longer data frames are being transmitted.)

Token passing is used on Token Ring and ArcNET networks.

Describe how token passing works.

Token passing is a media access method designed to prevent collisions. In its most simple
form it operates as follows:

1. A station that wishes to transmit on the network waits until it the token is free. 2.
The sending station transmits its data with the token. 3. The token travels to the
recipient without stopping at other stations. 4. The receiving station receives the
token with the data and returns the token to the sender as an acknowledgment. 5.
The sender receives acknowledgment and releases the token to next station. 6. The
token continues being passed along the ring until it is "grabbed" by the next station
that wants to transmit.

What is the demand priority media access method?

Demand priority is the new Ethernet media access method that will probably replace the
popular but older CSMA/CD method. Demand priority access has the following

• Used with 100 Mbps Ethernet

• Requires a 'smart' hub that controls access to the network
• Stations must request permission from the hub before they can transmit
• Transmissions are sent through hub and are not broadcast to all other stations
• Stations can transmit and receive at the same time
• Transmits on all four wire-pairs of twisted pair wire (i.e., can use Category 3 cable)
• Transmissions can be prioritized (e.g., time sensitive traffic such as video is given

Describe how demand priority works.

Demand priority utilizes a 'hub-centric approach to media access. A 'smart hub' controls
access to the network. When a workstation needs to transmit, it sends a request to the hub.
The hub grants permission to transmit based on network conditions and requester priority.
Because they are under the control of the hub, workstations do not 'compete' for access to
the network.

Unlike 'regular' Ethernet in which a transmission is transmitted to all stations, demand

priority utilizes a directed transmission. The hub directs the transmission from sender to
intended recipient rather than sending it to all stations.

With demand priority, workstations can transmit and receive at the same time. This is
because demand priority employs 'quartet signaling' on four pairs of wires. Regular 10BaseT
Ethernet transmits over two wire pairs.

Compare token passing with CSMA/CD

• CSMA/CD is used primarily by Ethernet LANs and token passing is used primarily by
Token Ring LANs.
• CSMA/CD works best in larger networks with relatively fewer, longer data frames.
Token passing works best in small to medium size networks with many short data
• Token passing allows different priorities to be assigned to stations. CSMA/CD does
• Token passing is normally more expensive than CSMA/CD.

Describe two types of error conditions on a token-ring LAN.

There are two common error conditions that can occur on a token passing LAN:

• Persistent Frame Error. A token cannot be acknowledged and continues to be passed

around the ring.
• Lost Token Error. A token is inadvertently "hung up" or removed from the ring.

Most token passing schemes can detect these errors and provide a mechanism for clearing
the ring or initializing a new token.

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