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Carrier Sense Multiple Access or CSMA is a Media Access Control (MAC) protocol that is used to control the flow of data in a transmission media so that packets do not get lost and data integrity is maintained. There are two modifications to CSMA, the CSMA/CD (CSMA/Collision Detection) and CSMA/CA (CSMA/Collision Avoidance), each having its own strengths.

CSMA operates by sensing the state of the medium in order to prevent or recover from a collision. A collision happens when two transmitters transmit at the same time. The data gets scrambled, and the receivers would not be able to discern one from the other thereby causing the information to get lost. The lost information needs to be resent so that the receiver will get it.

CSMA/CD operates by detecting the occurrence of a collision. Once a collision is detected, CSMA/CD immediately terminates the transmission so that the transmitter does not have to waste a lot of time in continuing. The last information can be retransmitted. In comparison, CSMA/CA does not deal with the recovery after a collision. What it does is to check whether the medium is in use. If it is busy, then the transmitter waits until it is idle before it starts transmitting. This effectively minimizes the possibility of collisions and makes more efficient use of the medium.

CSMA/CD is used mostly in wired installations because it is possible to detect whether a collision has occurred. With wireless installations, it is not possible for the transmitter to detect whether a collision has occurred or not. That is why wireless installations often use CSMA/CA instead of CSMA/CD.


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