Many times designers assume that because a transmitter has a unique address code or protocol that it can transmit at the same time as other units with different codes or protocols. It is important to remember that even though the original signal may be digitally distinct, it enters airspace as an analog electrical signal. This means only one unit can operate at a time without contention. If two people are screaming at you, it does not matter what they are saying, you will not understand either one. The same idea applies to an RF receiver. While protocol or encoding is useful once a signal has been successfully received, it will not be of any use if the signal has been corrupted in the analog domain of free space. A system’s modulation method can also have an impact on its proximity. For example, in most simple AM/OOK systems, everything will be corrupt during overlapping high bit times. In an FM/FSK system, the receiver will lock onto the strongest signal and still provide usable output (assuming a reasonable differential between the two signals).
In some applications, where transmissions are infrequent and not of a critical nature, simply sending data redundantly with randomized breaks can allow the successful operation of multiple units. For applications requiring more reliable transfer, contention must be eliminated through either a sequenced network or through channelization. Either of these methods adds to system cost and complexity, but, when properly implemented, make it possible for the successful operation of multiple units without contention in the same environment.