Multiple Access Control Protocols (Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Token Ring)


In computer networks, multiple access control protocols are used to manage the communication between multiple devices within a network. These protocols ensure efficient and fair utilization of network resources. This article will delve into three commonly used multiple access control protocols: Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Token Ring.


Ethernet is a widely adopted multiple access control protocol for wired networks. It was developed by Xerox in the 1970s and has evolved into the de facto standard for local area networks (LANs). Ethernet uses a Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) mechanism to control access to the network channel.

In CSMA/CD, each device connected to the Ethernet listens to the network before transmitting data. If the network is idle, the device sends its data. However, if two or more devices transmit at the same time, a collision occurs, and all transmitting devices stop and wait for a random period before retransmitting. Thereby, Ethernet ensures fairness by allowing multiple devices to share the available bandwidth.


Wi-Fi, short for Wireless Fidelity, is a multiple access control protocol used in wireless networks. Wi-Fi is based on the IEEE 802.11 family of standards and operates in the unlicensed frequency bands. Unlike Ethernet, Wi-Fi does not use CSMA/CD due to the unique characteristics of wireless communication.

In Wi-Fi networks, the multiple access scheme employed is called Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Avoidance (CSMA/CA). In CSMA/CA, devices perform virtual carrier sensing to detect if the channel is busy. Additionally, they avoid collisions by using a random backoff algorithm before transmitting. This protocol helps prioritize the devices with the highest priority.

Token Ring

Token Ring is a multiple access control protocol used in early LAN architectures. It was standardized as IEEE 802.5 and operated on a ring topology. In the Token Ring protocol, a special control frame known as the "token" circulates around the network.

To transmit data, a device must possess the token. When a device has the token, it is granted permission to send its data across the network. After transmission, the device releases the token for other devices to utilize. This sequential process ensures fair access to the network and helps prevent collisions.


Here is a brief comparison of the three multiple access control protocols:

  • Ethernet: Suitable for wired networks, uses CSMA/CD to handle network collisions, widely adopted for LANs.
  • Wi-Fi: Designed for wireless networks, uses CSMA/CA to avoid network collisions, popular for wireless LANs and internet access.
  • Token Ring: Historically used in LANs, uses a token-passing mechanism to grant devices access to the network, less common nowadays.


Multiple access control protocols play a vital role in ensuring efficient data transmission within computer networks. Ethernet remains the go-to choice for wired LANs, while Wi-Fi dominates the wireless domain. Token Ring, although less prevalent today, had its place in early LAN architectures. Understanding these protocols helps network administrators choose the most appropriate option for their network requirements.

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