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Linux IEEE 802.15.4 implementation
The IEEE 802.15.4 working group focuses on standartization of bottom
two layers: Medium Accsess Control (MAC) and Physical (PHY). And there
are mainly two options available for upper layers:
- ZigBee - proprietary protocol from ZigBee Alliance
- 6LowPAN - IPv6 networking over low rate personal area networks
The Linux-ZigBee project goal is to provide complete implementation
of IEEE 802.15.4 and 6LoWPAN protocols. IEEE 802.15.4 is a stack
of protocols for organizing Low-Rate Wireless Personal Area Networks.
The stack is composed of three main parts:
- IEEE 802.15.4 layer; We have chosen to use plain Berkeley socket API,
the generic Linux networking stack to transfer IEEE 802.15.4 messages
and a special protocol over genetlink for configuration/management
- MAC - provides access to shared channel and reliable data delivery
- PHY - represents device drivers
Socket API
int sd = socket(PF_IEEE802154, SOCK_DGRAM, 0);
The address family, socket addresses etc. are defined in the
include/net/af_ieee802154.h header or in the special header
in our userspace package (see either linux-zigbee sourceforge download page
or git tree at git://
One can use SOCK_RAW for passing raw data towards device xmit function. YMMV.
Kernel side
Like with WiFi, there are several types of devices implementing IEEE 802.15.4.
1) 'HardMAC'. The MAC layer is implemented in the device itself, the device
exports MLME and data API.
2) 'SoftMAC' or just radio. These types of devices are just radio transceivers
possibly with some kinds of acceleration like automatic CRC computation and
comparation, automagic ACK handling, address matching, etc.
Those types of devices require different approach to be hooked into Linux kernel.
MLME - MAC Level Management
Most of IEEE 802.15.4 MLME interfaces are directly mapped on netlink commands.
See the include/net/nl802154.h header. Our userspace tools package
(see above) provides CLI configuration utility for radio interfaces and simple
coordinator for IEEE 802.15.4 networks as an example users of MLME protocol.
See the header include/net/ieee802154_netdev.h. You have to implement Linux
net_device, with .type = ARPHRD_IEEE802154. Data is exchanged with socket family
code via plain sk_buffs. On skb reception skb->cb must contain additional
info as described in the struct ieee802154_mac_cb. During packet transmission
the skb->cb is used to provide additional data to device's header_ops->create
function. Be aware, that this data can be overriden later (when socket code
submits skb to qdisc), so if you need something from that cb later, you should
store info in the skb->data on your own.
To hook the MLME interface you have to populate the ml_priv field of your
net_device with a pointer to struct ieee802154_mlme_ops instance. All fields are
We provide an example of simple HardMAC driver at drivers/ieee802154/fakehard.c
The MAC is the middle layer in the IEEE 802.15.4 Linux stack. This moment it
provides interface for drivers registration and management of slave interfaces.
NOTE: Currently the only monitor device type is supported - it's IEEE 802.15.4
stack interface for network sniffers (e.g. WireShark).
This layer is going to be extended soon.
See header include/net/mac802154.h and several drivers in drivers/ieee802154/.
Device drivers API
The include/net/mac802154.h defines following functions:
- struct ieee802154_dev *ieee802154_alloc_device
(size_t priv_size, struct ieee802154_ops *ops):
allocation of IEEE 802.15.4 compatible device
- void ieee802154_free_device(struct ieee802154_dev *dev):
freeing allocated device
- int ieee802154_register_device(struct ieee802154_dev *dev):
register PHY in the system
- void ieee802154_unregister_device(struct ieee802154_dev *dev):
freeing registered PHY
Moreover IEEE 802.15.4 device operations structure should be filled.
Fake drivers
In addition there are two drivers available which simulate real devices with
HardMAC (fakehard) and SoftMAC (fakelb - IEEE 802.15.4 loopback driver)
interfaces. This option provides possibility to test and debug stack without
usage of real hardware.
See sources in drivers/ieee802154 folder for more details.
6LoWPAN Linux implementation
The IEEE 802.15.4 standard specifies an MTU of 128 bytes, yielding about 80
octets of actual MAC payload once security is turned on, on a wireless link
with a link throughput of 250 kbps or less. The 6LoWPAN adaptation format
[RFC4944] was specified to carry IPv6 datagrams over such constrained links,
taking into account limited bandwidth, memory, or energy resources that are
expected in applications such as wireless Sensor Networks. [RFC4944] defines
a Mesh Addressing header to support sub-IP forwarding, a Fragmentation header
to support the IPv6 minimum MTU requirement [RFC2460], and stateless header
compression for IPv6 datagrams (LOWPAN_HC1 and LOWPAN_HC2) to reduce the
relatively large IPv6 and UDP headers down to (in the best case) several bytes.
In Semptember 2011 the standard update was published - [RFC6282].
It deprecates HC1 and HC2 compression and defines IPHC encoding format which is
used in this Linux implementation.
All the code related to 6lowpan you may find in files: net/ieee802154/6lowpan.*
To setup 6lowpan interface you need (busybox release > 1.17.0):
1. Add IEEE802.15.4 interface and initialize PANid;
2. Add 6lowpan interface by command like:
# ip link add link wpan0 name lowpan0 type lowpan
3. Set MAC (if needs):
# ip link set lowpan0 address de:ad:be:ef:ca:fe:ba:be
4. Bring up 'lowpan0' interface