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PHY Layer – CWAP#5

This chapter accounts for 10% of the Knowledge Domain in the CWAP exam. Approx. 6/60 questions!

Exam Moment from the Book : It is not important, for the CWAP exam, that you know all the details of the variations of the PHY preambles; however, you should know that the preamble adds extra overhead to the communications and that older devices may introduce a preamble that reduces performance overall and forces all devices in the BSS to communicate based on that long preamble.


Carrier Sense > State of STA where it is ready to transmit or receive packets/signals

Clear Channel Assessment > Identify whether the channel is unused and available prior to the packet transmission

Transmit (Tx) > Upon checking if the wireless medium is available the STA needs to transmit a frame which is enabled by CS/CCA process. Unlike ethernet the wireless frames cannot transmit and receive the frames at the same time.

Receive (Rx) > The transmitting STA will precede the data portion of the frame with a preamble.  It contains a binary strings that the receiving station can identify and synchronise with , essentially alerting the receiving station to the transmission. The preamble also includes a Start Frame Delimiter field, which the receiving station uses to identify the beginning of the frame. An ACK frame Is sent with the entire frame is received.

Upper : Physical Layer Convergence Procedure (PLCP) 
Lower : Physical Medium Dependant (PMD) 
MSDU (MAC service Data Unit) 
MAC header and trailer are added,'removed 
creates PLC? Protocol Data Unit (PPDIJ) from MAC sublayer. 
MPDU is handed down to the PHY referred as PLCP Service 
Data Unit (PLC?) 
PMD modulates and transmits the data as bits.

PMD > transmits the data as RF modulated 1s and 0s. When receiving , the PMD listens to the RF and passes the received data up to the PLCP sublayer.
PLCP Protocol Data Unit> When PLCP receives PSDU, it then prepares PPDU. PLCP adds a preamble + PHY header to the PSDU.

PLCP Preamble > String of 0/1 bits that are used to synchronise incoming transmissions. IEEE 802.11-2007 standard defines 3 different PPDUs.

Long PPDU > 144 bit PLCP Preamble, 128 bit Sync field + 16 bit Start of Frame Delimiter (SFD).

Short PPDU > 72 bit PLCP Preamble, 56 bit Sync field and 16 bit SFD

OFDM PLCP Preamble >10 short symbols + 2 long symbols

PLCP Header > Long & Short PLCP Headers are both 48 bits log and contain 4 fields (Signal(8) + Service(8) + Length(16) + CRC(16).

PLC? Preamble 
PLC? Header 
Short PPDIJ 
Long Header 
Short Header

802.11n PPDUs

802.11n PPDU formats 
L=Legacy (non-HT) 
STF=Short Training held 
LTF=Long Training Field 
HT=High Throughput 

Non-HT Legacy PPDU

  • Consists of Preamble(Short/Long symbols)
  • Mandatory for 802.11n radios and transmissions can occur in only 20MHz channels.
  • Effectively same format used by legacy 802.11a/g radios.


  • 802.11n amendment
  • Likely be most commonly used format as it supports HT + Legacy 802.11a/g.
  • Transmission can occur in both 20MHz and 40MHz channels

HT-Greenfield PPDU

  • 2nd of the two new PPDU formats defined by 802.11n.
  • Not compatible with legacy 802.11 radios, only the HT Radios can communicate with this format.
  • Can transmit using 20MHz and 40MHz fields.

Data Field

The data field portion of PPDU is the PSDU. In easy terms, the data field is the 802.11 MAC frame.

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