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In Cognitive Radio (CR) networks, identifying the available spectrum resource through spectrum sensing, deciding on the optimal sensing and transmission times, and coordinating with the other users for spectrum access are the important functions of the Medium Access Control (MAC) protocols. In this survey, the characteristic features, advantages, and the limiting factors of the existing CR MAC protocols are thoroughly investigated for both infrastructure-based and ad hoc networks. First, an overview of the spectrum sensing is given, as it ensures that the channel access does not result in interference to the licensed users of the spectrum.
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