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The perfect complement

Higher throughput for wlans is on the menu. By Philip Ling.

The plethora of wireless technologies available today and the even greater number that will be available shortly all share a commonality of design; typically a baseband processor and an analogue front end. What sets them apart from each other isn’t the frequency they use – the ubiquitously populated ISM band is proof of that – but the way they access and use that frequency. And this comes down to two important elements: the physical interface (PHY); and media access controller (MAC).
The International Standard Organisation’s Open Systems Interconnect (OSI ISO) model defines seven network layers, layer 1 being the physical layer, or PHY, which defines the electrical and mechanical aspects of the particular network. Every type of network, be it wired or wireless, necessarily has its own defined PHY. Closely linked to the PHY is layer 2, the data link layer, which handles the transition of bits to and from data packets and is itself subdivided in to two layers: the medium access control, or MAC, which controls how nodes on the network gain access and privileges to the data; and the logical link control layer, or LLC, which deals with synchronisation and data flow.
These two layers and how they are implemented provide the foundation for any network. Arguably, this makes them the most important of the seven layers. The PHY is where regulatory compliance must be adhered to, while the closely coupled MAC quite literally controls the way on and off of the network.

Philip Ling

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