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(also multistation access unit, multiport transceiver, MAU)

MSAU definition

A multistation access unit (MSAU) is a networking device that connects multiple devices in a Token Ring network. The MSAU facilitates communication among these devices by controlling the passage of data packets, or tokens, around the network. By managing the token flow, MSAUs help maintain a reliable and efficient network, reducing the likelihood of data collisions and ensuring proper transmission and reception of data.

See also: network interface card, token ring

MSAU examples

  • IBM Type 1 MSAU: A popular MSAU model used in classic Token Ring networks, featuring a built-in ring-in and ring-out port for token management.
  • Cisco 3920 MSAU: A high-performance MSAU from Cisco, designed to support advanced features and deliver high-speed connectivity in modern Token Ring networks.

Comparing MSAUs to other networking devices

MSAUs are similar to ethernet hubs and switches in that they connect multiple devices within a network. However, they differ in terms of the underlying network topology and communication protocols. MSAUs are specifically designed for Token Ring networks, whereas hubs and switches are used in ethernet networks.

Pros and cons of MSAUs


  • MSAUs help maintain an orderly flow of data packets in a Token Ring network, reducing collisions and ensuring efficient communication.
  • They offer more robust error detection and handling capabilities than ethernet hubs and switches.


  • Token Ring networks, and by extension MSAUs, are less popular and less widely used than Ethernet networks, making them harder to find and often more expensive.
  • Token Ring networks have lower maximum data transfer speeds compared to modern ethernet networks.

Tips for using MSAUs

  • Ensure proper cable connections between devices and MSAU ports to maintain optimal network performance.
  • Regularly check the MSAU’s status indicators for any signs of network issues or device faults.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security