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What is a network collision?

What is a network collision and why does it occur on the Ethernet instead of the Token Ring? Find out from our networking security expert, Michael Gregg.

What is a network collision? Why do they occur on the Ethernet and not on the Token Ring?
Collisions are what happen when you follow to close to other drivers in Houston traffic! All jokes aside, Ethernet is a contention based protocol that detects collisions. Ethernet was designed so that each device must share the network by competing with other devices for access to the network media. When a device detects that no other device is transmitting, it will generate and send out a frame. While the frame is being sent the device will listen to the receiving pair so that it can detect if another device is attempting to send out a frame at the same time. If so, there is a collision.

If a collision is detected, the device will continue the frame transmission so that the other device will have time to detect the collision. Once this has been accomplished, the device will wait a random amount of time and then listen to the wire again to se if someone else is transmitting. If not, the device will again attempt to transmit the frame.

Token ring is an alternate way of handling network communication. In Ethernet there is no way of determining when a device will transmit a frame. Token ring uses a deterministic approach. Token ring is similar to a relay race in which each runner is waiting for the baton to proceed. Token ring passes a token around the network which is used to allow a device to communicate. Only the device with the token can communicate. This prevents collisions and creates a highly efficient network.

This was last published in January 2006

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