Wi-Fi Access Protocol

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IEEE 802.11 wireless LANs use a media access control protocol called Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Avoidance (CSMA/CA). While the name is similar to Ethernet's Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection (CSMA/CD), the operating concept is totally different.

Wi-Fi systems are half duplex shared media configurations, where all stations transmit and receive on the same radio channel. The fundamental problem this creates in a radio system is that a station cannot hear while it is sending, and hence it impossible to detect a collision. Because of this, the developers of the 802.11 specifications came up with a collision avoidance mechanism called the Distributed Control Function (DCF).

According to DCF, A Wi-Fi station will transmit only if it thinks the channel is clear. All transmissions are acknowledged, so if a station does not receive an acknowledgement, it assumes a collision occurred and retries after a random waiting interval.

The incidence of collisions will increase as the traffic increases or in situations where mobile stations cannot hear each other.



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