Media Access Control Method

A way data moves from one terminal to another and how the computer terminal on a network gains and controls the transfer of data packets over the network through the cables forming the communication link called the Media Access Control Method. A collision can occur, and data may be corrupted if two or more computers send data simultaneously, except a method resolves the collision gracefully. Media access control methods ensure the smooth traffic flow on a network and prevent or deal with collisions. Media access control methods are implemented at the data-link layer of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) reference model. There are four main media access control methods in Networking:


Layer 2 protocols identify packet encapsulation into a frame and the method for getting the encapsulated packet on and off each medium. The method also used to get the frame on and off the media is called the media access control method.

As packets travel from the source to the destination, they traverse different physical networks. These physical networks can consist of different types of physical media, such as copper wires, optical fibers, and wireless networks consisting of electromagnetic signals, microwave and radio frequencies, and satellite links.

Without the data link layer, network layer protocols such as IP would have to make provisions for connecting to every media type that could exist along a delivery path. Moreover, IP must adapt whenever a new network technology or medium is developed. This process would slow down protocol and network media innovation and development. This is also a key reason for using a layered approach to networking.

Providing Access to Media

During a single communication, different media access control methods may be required. Every network environment has different characteristics. For example, Ethernet LAN, WLAN, and serial links have different characteristics.

Router interfaces encapsulate the packet into a suitable frame, and a proper media access control method is used to access each link. In any given exchange of network layer packets, there may be several data link layers and media transitions. At each hop along the path, a router does the following:

  • Accepts a frame from a medium
  • De-encapsulates the frame
  • Re-encapsulates the packet into a new frame
  • Forwards the new frame to the medium of that segment of the physical network

Controlling Access to The Media

The media access control layer (data link sub-layer) standardizes the placement of data frames onto the media. Media access control is the same as traffic rules that control the entry of vehicles onto a roadway. The lack of media access control would be the equivalent of vehicles ignoring all other traffic and entering the road without regard to the other vehicles. On the other hand, not all roads and entrances are the same. Traffic can enter the road by merging, waiting for its turn at a stop sign, or obeying signal lights. A driver follows a different set of rules for each type of entrance.

In the same way, there are different methods to control placing frames onto the media. The protocols at the data link layer define the rules for access to different media. These media access control techniques describe if and how the nodes share the media. The real media access control method used depends on the topology and media sharing.