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A Split MAC Approach for SDR Platforms

Implementation of carrier sensing-based medium access control (MAC) protocols on inexpensive reconfigurable radio platforms has proven challenging due to long and unpredictable delays associated with both signal processing on a general purpose processor (GPP) and the interface between the radio frequency (RF) front end and the GPP. This paper describes the development and implementation of a split-functionality architecture for a contention-based carrier sensing MAC, in which some of the functions reside on an field-programmable gate array (FPGA) and others reside in the GPP.

We provide an FPGA-based implementation of a carrier sensing block and develop two versions of a carrier sense multiple access (CSMA) MAC protocol based upon this block. We experimentally test the performance of the resulting protocols in a multihop environment in terms of end-to-end throughput and required frame retransmissions. We cross-validate these results with a network simulator with modules modified to reflect the mean and variance of delays measured in components of the real software-defined radio system.

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